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Beacon Senior News

How to safely purchase a pet online

May 24, 2021 12:04PM ● By Adam Cochran
puppy standing on short step

According to the pet insurance company Pawlicy Advisor, 67 percent of American homes have at least one pet.

Statistically, Colorado is a dog-lover state. In Denver, there may even be more dogs than children, according to Denver Parks and Recreation.

Due to the rising popularity of house pets, breeding purebred and boutique breeds of dogs and cats has become a lucrative business. An English bulldog puppy can easily cost more than $2,500 because the breed often requires artificial insemination and caesarean section delivery. Cats can also be extremely expensive. Both a Russian blue or a hairless sphynx can sell for over $2,500.

Being a pet breeder can be highly profitable, but it also takes a lot of work to do it right. Bad characters have figured out that it’s even more profitable and less work to pretend to be reputable breeders, scamming would-be pet owners out of hundreds to thousands of dollars.

Facebook, Craigslist and even traditional websites are common ways for breeders to advertise their puppies, kitties, birds and even reptiles. Purchasing an animal over the internet is generally safe as long as you know what to look for and what questions to ask. Here are my recommended tips:

1.  Always ask for multiple pictures. If the pictures look like they’re from a calendar or stock photo site, they probably are.

2.  Ask to meet the animal over a video streaming service.

3.  Read the description carefully to ensure that everything adds up. Some scammers will post pictures of 8-week-old puppies and describe them as 8-week-old puppies, but the date on the post could be from 16 weeks ago.

4.  Do NOT send a deposit via a wire service. PayPal offers an option called “goods and service” which is fairly safe, but a standard debit card is the safest avenue for any payment.

5.  Do NOT send a deposit until you’re absolutely certain the animal is both real and available.

6.  Reputable breeders have nothing to hide and will gladly video conference with you, send pictures of the parents, and offer multiple pictures of the same animal. They won’t even protest overly cautious requests, such as sending a picture of the animal in front of a recent newspaper.

7.  We all know the saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Typically, scammers advertise their non-existent animals for a price that’s believable, but slightly lower than market value. They also offer lots of extra perks such as free pet toys. Some scammers may include non-essential information like, “This beautiful kitten comes from a good Christian home.”

8.  It’s not a bad idea to copy a sentence or two from the pet’s description and paste it into a Google search. Scammers often reuse the same wording for multiple breeds and different types of animals.

9.  Don’t deal with any breeder who says you must involve a third party. Many overseas scammers claim they’re selling for a relative, or they pretend to be the airline or customs requesting further payment before the animal can be shipped. These are always scams. 

Transporting them

One of the first questions is, “How do I get my new pet home?” 

Shipping an animal from one state to another is fairly inexpensive. Some animals, like snakes, lizards and tarantulas can be shipped via regular shipping services. Bigger pets like mammals and birds can be shipped via animal shipping services. 

Or some breeders will actually escort the pet on a flight. Whether you pay to have the animal shipped or you choose to pick it up from the breeder yourself, the transportation cost is in addition to the price of the animal itself.

Online classifieds: Buy and sell with ease

We asked readers: What’s the wildest scam you’ve encountered?

Scams target good-doers

Church leaders and church followers are sometimes easy targets of scams. Recently, a member of my church got a text from someone saying it was me. It wasn’t from my phone number, but she still believed it. The text said that I was in urgent need of gift cards for women in the hospital battling cancer. So this woman went and bought the gift cards and then sent “me” the code and pin on the back of the cards so I could give them to the women. After doing it a few times, she became suspicious and contacted law enforcement who told her it was a scam. The people who get scammed are typically such nice, caring people, as was the case in this situation. I suggest anyone who receives a request like this to contact the person personally to verify if there is a real request being made, or if it is part of a scam. 

- Chalane 

Fake online shopping orders

Confirmation orders from Amazon show up in your email inbox. These have a tracking number and your name but are for orders you never made going to people you don’t know. If you get one of these emails, open a new browser window and go directly to your Amazon account and check. Please don’t click on any tracking number.

- Melanie

Lottery scams from Jamaica

Beware of calls from Jamaica. I had to block all calls from there because I was getting so many. They usually start off with, “You have won a lottery.” I knew it was a scam, but I played along. They wanted their cut of my “winnings.” Once, a detective from the Grand Junction Police sat with me as I spoke with the scammer who said they were sending someone to my address to pick up the money. Of course, no one showed up. When they called again, I said, “Why don’t you get a REAL job and quit scamming people?” I hung up.

- Pat M.

Got a wild scam story? Email it to [email protected]