Cat and dog lovers beware! Con artists are on the prowl for folks who own or want to adopt cuddly puppies or exotic felines. Common schemes include the following:
- Pay to get your lost pet returned. A fraudster sees your lost pet advertisement in the newspaper or a photo of Fido stapled to a telephone pole. He calls to say that your animal climbed into his pickup truck, and now he’s in another state. Oh, by the way, your pet has some health problems and needs veterinary attention. Send money to pay the bills and get your pet shipped home. Unfortunately, the scammer doesn’t have your pet. While waiting for your money, he’s trolling for the next victim.
- Pay to adopt a pet over the Internet. An ad or website, often containing bad grammar or spelling, offers a dog or cat for “rehoming” or “adoption.” The ad is replete with photos of cuddly puppies or kittens, claims of American Kennel Club certifications, and personal details of the seller’s life. He or she may claim that a close relative died recently and the cat has no one to care for it. Don’t buy it! After a few e-mails proclaiming the seller’s commitment to the animal’s welfare, you’ll be asked to send money, sometimes as an advance fee to a “pet shipping company.” Again, the pet “adoption” is a ploy to steal your money.
- Pay a bogus animal control officer. A fellow with an official-looking badge and business card claims to work for an independent animal control company. He stops by your house to check out a complaint about your dog. After a few harsh words, he threatens to impound the pet unless you immediately pay a fee. Don’t fall for it! Call your local animal control department to verify any complaints, and check out the company with the Better Business Bureau.
- Pay a phony dog trainer. Anyone can claim to be a dog trainer. Some less-than-ethical people use that ploy to steal animals and charge fees for services that aren’t delivered.
“Pet flipping” is also on the rise in some parts of the country. Under that scenario, a thief grabs Fido from your front yard and sells the poor creature via Craigslist or another online action site.
Enjoy your pets, but don’t be fooled by crooks in sheep’s clothing.