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Catfished by a dog: Avoid pet scams

Online pet scams boomed during the pandemic and have since stayed on the rise.

According to the Better Business Bureau, from January to September 2022, 1,577 reports of puppy scams caused losses of more than $1.3 million – an average loss of $850 per consumer. That's up from $755 per consumer in 2021. These online scams can be anywhere, but are especially common on free websites like craigslist and social media.

Pet scams happen different ways, but have a few things in common:  a cute picture to pull on your heartstrings, a request for money, and a story to explain why they need you to send funds quickly.

They’ll often lure you in with a bargain price on an expensive dog breed. For example, an American bulldog from a reputable breeder that would normally cost around $2,000 could be listed for a price of only $400. If you reply to the ad, you’ll be asked for a deposit, or perhaps money to get the alleged pet neutered. After you transfer the money, the scammer disappears.

Sometimes, animals are even offered up for “free” adoption, if you pay the shipping. If you see an ad like this, more than likely, it’s a scam.

Scammers will do anything to get your money or account information. They make their scams seem as legitimate as possible by using the names of real pet shippers, pirating valid websites, and stealing logos of real companies.

If you’re yearning for an animal companion, proceed with caution:

  • Avoid online sellers and brokers that won’t let you meet the puppy first, especially those you find on free websites. Instead, ask your friends and family for recommendations, and don’t forget the wonderful pets waiting for homes at your local humane society.
  • If the seller/breeder is located outside the United States, avoid it.
  • Beware of anyone who wants you to pay with a wire transfer, gift cards, or any other untraceable form of payment.

If you have been scammed, act quickly to protect your money and information.

  1. Stop contact with the scammer and don’t believe anything they say. Remember, the puppy never existed! Ignore their emails and calls. Block them, if necessary.
  2. File a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center:
  3. Contact us at NorthCountry and we will do what we can to prevent you from experiencing further loss. People are scammed every day. If it happens to you, we can provide judgement-free guidance on what to do.
  4. If you used Western Union, forward the copy of the email with the scammer’s recipient information to customercare.
  5. If you used MoneyGram, call toll-free 1 800 MoneyGram. Ask them to release information about the scam by contacting:

Bottom line:

If something seems too good to be true, it is. Protect yourself and if you find out you’ve been scammed, call us at NorthCountry.