If you have been thinking about adding a pet to your family, be on the lookout for pet scams. Here are several ways to spot this type of scam and what to do if you have been targeted.
Pet scams include nonexistent animals for sale by private “sellers” or bogus pet adoption websites offering pets for sale at low prices. In both circumstances, eager buyers are lured into spending money on extra costs, like shipping and insurance, while being promised an adorable new pet at a bargain price. All fees will be collected via wire transfer or prepaid debit card, and will need to be paid in full before the “pet” is shipped.
Of course, there is no pet and the entire process is a scam. The criminals will make off with the victim’s nonrefundable money and the puppy will never show up at their door. Often, the scammer will continue finding new excuses to collect money from the victim, including charges for the shipping crate or food costs for the animal. The victims realize that they have been scammed and try to pull out. However, at this point, they may be out thousands of dollars with nothing to show for it.
Protect yourself from pet scams by approaching the potential purchase of a new pet with these five ground rules:
- Don’t agree to wire money for a pet purchase or to pay via prepaid debit card. Instead, ask if you can pay with a credit card. This way, you will have purchase protection and a way to back out of the transaction if the deal goes sideways.
- Don’t send money for a pet purchase before you actually see the animal in reality. Anyone can find an adorable picture of a puppy online and post the animal for sale.
- Be skeptical of an out-of-town or long-distance seller. It is best to work with a local seller so you can exchange the money and the animal in person.
- If you are desperate for a new pet, but you don’t want to get scammed, consider adopting a pet from a local shelter instead of buying one off a private seller. These tend to cost a lot less and you won’t have to pay for shipping fees. You will be dealing with a reputable nonprofit organization instead of working with an anonymous seller.
- Dig up any information you can about the seller before agreeing to the purchase. Ask for their full name, phone number and street address. Do a quick online search to see what the internet is saying about them.
If you have been targeted: If you believe you have been targeted by a pet scammer, let the FTC know. Report the scam at ftc.gov/complaint.
Make sure to utilize your Benefits Plus® membership as a way to protect yourself from fraudulent activity! Once you have upgraded your basic checking account to a Benefits Plus® checking with SeaComm, you will gain access to a variety of identity theft protection services including fraud alerts, identity theft alerts, and more. Visit your local SeaComm branch to upgrade your checking account.
For complete information, terms, conditions and exclusions please visit www.benefits-plus.org or call 866-329-7587.
Click here to access the SeaComm Fraud Center, which includes valuable resources to help educate and empower our members to protect their assets and identities!