Over £2.5 million has been lost due to pet scam online.

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The pandemic has been a lonely experience for many people. As a result, it may be tempting to look for a new animal companion on the internet. Animal companions, whether a puppy, kitten, or even an exotic bird, can help to relieve the stress of being stuck indoors for long periods of time.

Thousands of fraudulent pet and shipping websites are waiting to defraud unsuspecting pet owners. These were created by opportunistic cybercriminals with the sole intent of defrauding unsuspecting buyers by selling non-existent animals.


How it works:

Scams involving pets generally have two stages: a hook and a sting. During the first stage of the scam, the perpetrators would generally use scripted letters to gain the trust of the unwary customer by promising pet wellness goods and after-sale paperwork.

As part of this procedure, pictures and videos taken from reputable breeders are frequently given to victims in order to persuade the buyer that the animal exists. The aim is to persuade the victim into paying a deposit, which is generally in the form of a non-refundable payment.

The culprit will go on to the sting stage of the scam after the unwary buyer has been hooked.

Scammers usually have a second website, such as a pet shipping service. They will use this to try to extort more money from the buyer by requesting additional fees. This will continue until the victim runs out of money or realises they have been duped.

During this stage of the scam, the most typical cost demanded is for a refundable cargo box, generally one that they claim is “temperature controlled,” despite the fact that airlines already have pressure and climate control in their cargo compartments. Offenders are also free to make up their own circumstances and stories.

Prospective purchasers were unable to travel to meet their preferred pet in person, Action Fraud in the UK recently recorded consumer losses from pet scams of over £280,000 over a two-month period.




A growing problem:

Those looking to buy a pet online, should do a video chat with any potential seller to see whether they are dealing with a fraudster. This may be taken a step further in normal circumstances by constantly paying a personal visit to the pet.

Another useful resource for potential purchasers is a website, petscams.com, which is the world’s largest publicly accessible database of fraudulent pet and shipping websites.

There is a big potential for researchers who want to learn more about non-delivery scam websites. In the instance of pet scams, one potential path is to investigate domain name registrars’ readiness to take down these websites in view of the rising harm they pose to consumers.


Warning Signs:

  • The asking price for a dog or cat is far less than the average cost of a popular breed.
  • The individual selling the animal is keen on shipping and dismisses attempts to pick up the pet in person.
  • The seller’s or delivery company’s emails include bad spelling and punctuation.
  • The seller demands payment by money transfer (such as Western Union or MoneyGram), gift card or prepaid debit card.
  • The shipment is continually held up by demands that you wire more money for, say, insurance, pet food, veterinary care or a special crate.


If you can’t see the animal in person, go with your gut and request a video conference. Make sure you can view the mother and the rest of the litter if you’re buying a young animal. Any ethical seller will appreciate you wanting to see the animal in person. If the vendor declines, inquire as to why. If you have any doubts, don’t pay anything unless you’re sure it’s real.

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