Pets and Animals In Depth

Pet and Animal Scam Statistics 2020 USA


4.3k estimated reports (U.S. & Canada)
34.5% of all online purchase scams

$750 loss median loss per pet scam

Source: BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report

Sections on this page
  1. What Are Pet and Animal Scams?
  2. Red Flags of Pet and Animal Scams
  3. Most Common Pet and Animal Scams
  4. How to Beat Pet and Animal Scams
  5. Fallen Victim to a Pet or Animal Scam?

A recent report by the Better Business Bureau revealed that in 2020 pet scammers were successful 70% of the time, costing victims an average of $750. Like other kinds of consumer fraud, pet scams have become easier to execute thanks to online payment systems and the ease with which scammers can hide their identities. The good news is if you're looking for a new furry friend, there are ways to avoid a pet scam, red flags to look out for, and methods you can use to beat them.

What Are Pet and Animal Scams?

There are several versions of different pet scams to be aware of. Most, if not all, pet scams involve some selling a pet—or at least they pretending to sell one.

They'll use pets to prey on people looking for a new furry friend, who may be more vulnerable to scams because they have a need they want to fulfill as soon as possible. They'll use cute photos of animals to tug at your heartstrings and make you fall in love with the pets before you even get to see them in person.

Most pet scams will happen on classified websites, like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and OfferUp.

Red Flags of Pet and Animal Scams

Knowing certain red flags can help you identify a pet or animal scam and avoid it. If you notice one or more of the following, it's best to stop and look for a pet elsewhere.

Not Being Able to See the Pet in Person

If a seller refuses to let you see the pet in person before sending payment, it's likely a scam. Don't ever hand over any money until you have the pet in your possession. It's always better to buy from a local seller so you can see the pet in person.

Example of online puppy scam.

Pets Being Offered for Free

If you ever see an offer for a "free" pet, you should be careful. While the scammer will agree to give you the pet for free, they may charge you shipping or other fees.

Animals Being Sold at a Heavily Discounted Price

Before shopping for a pet, you should get a rough range as to how much the kind of animal you'd like should cost, and if the price is significantly less, beware. The scammer may just be trying to entice you with a great price.

The Seller Asking for Extra Money

A request for extra money, whether for shipping costs or anything else, is a typical red flag. All fees should be disclosed upfront, along with details regarding what they cover.

Emails from Airlines After Purchasing a Pet

Another common pet scam red flag is an email from an airline asking that you pay more money for the safe transport of your new pet. The email may claim that the pet needs a particular carrier, documentation, or shots before being allowed to fly—and that you can obtain these for a fee.

Most Common Pet and Animal Scams

The most common pet scams involve free pets for sale, pets offered at discounted prices, and sellers asking for more money after the initial sale.

"Free Pet for Sale!"

In a free pet scam, the thief posts an ad complete with cute pictures and extensive details about a pet or animal they claim to have. They then make you pay money for something involved with getting the pet to you safely, such as shots needed for air travel or a special container.

Pet Shipping Scams

Some scammers will offer "free" pets and only ask you to pay for shipping. For example, they may say you need to pay for the pet's airfare or ground transportation. But after you pay for the animal's shipping, they never send it to you, keep your money, and disappear.

Fake Airline Emails

A scammer may send you an email that looks like it comes from an airline, demanding that you pay for additional measures to ensure the safe delivery of a pet you're buying. In addition, the email may claim that they can't ship the pet unless you obtain certain documents, carriers, or immunizations.

People Pretending to Be IPATA Partners

The International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) does business with legitimate shipping companies, and scammers may pose as one of these businesses. They often copy certificates, websites, and testimonials to make it look like they have a legitimate relationship with the IPATA.

Holiday Pet Scams

During the holidays, people are often eager to put a memorable smile on someone's face with a cute new pet, and scammers like to take advantage of this. They may offer pets at a "holiday discount" or "seasonal deal," often for far less than you would typically have to pay. Then they ask you to wire them money through a company like Western Union. After getting your wire, they never send the pet.

How to Beat Pet and Animal Scams

If you come across an animal or pet scam, you can take the following steps to beat it:

  • Refuse to pay the scammer any money unless you're able to see the animal in person, as well as its paperwork.
  • Don't send any money and immediately report the scammer if you get an email from an airline from a suspicious email address, such as am @gmail.com or another free account.
  • If you've already sent payment to a scammer, try to intercept it, whether you try to cancel the transaction with the money transfer company or cancel the delivery of a check.

Fallen Victim to a Pet or Animal Scam?

If you've fallen for an animal or pet scam, you can report the fraud to [email protected]. The IPATA has been recognized as a safe, secure way of transporting pets. While it's unlikely they can help get your money back, they keep a record of known scammers, including the emails they send and the websites they use.

You can also:

  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) either online or by calling 877-382-4357.
  • Reach out to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which the FBI manages to help address online fraud.
  • Report the scammer to the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
  • Report the scam to the website you used to purchase it (e.g., Craigslist).
  • Dispute the charge with your bank or money transfer app/company.

If you've wired money to a scammer and they haven't claimed it yet, you may be able to stop the payment. For instance, if you used Western Union, you could log into your account and cancel the transfer before the scammer receives it.

Scams Relating to Pets and Animals

Sort by:
Avoid Paying for a Pet via a Cash App Deposit—It's a Scam!

Avoid Paying for a Pet via a Cash App Deposit—It's a Scam!

Keep your money safe by only paying for your new pet once you have the pet in your possession and avoid using Cash App.

Minimize Your Risk of Falling for Online Puppy Scams

Minimize Your Risk of Falling for Online Puppy Scams

Stay cautious when buying pets from private sellers online—many listings could be fake with scammers attempting to steal your money.

Beware of Craigslist Puppy Scams Looking to Steal Your Money

Beware of Craigslist Puppy Scams Looking to Steal Your Money

Online puppy scams increased by 500% in 2020, with Craigslist being a common site for scammers to use.

Scams in Other Categories...
Selling on Facebook Marketplace? Beware of Fake Venmo Emails
30 August 2023 |

Selling on Facebook Marketplace? Beware of Fake Venmo Emails

Scammers are sending fake Venmo emails to Facebook Marketplace sellers in an attempt to steal login information and money.

Citibank Text Message Scam: Locked Debit Card Alert Is Fake
10 February 2023 |

Citibank Text Message Scam: Locked Debit Card Alert Is Fake

If you've received a locked debit card text message from Citibank, it's likely a scam. Don't click on the link and delete the text message.

Real Chase Fraud Text Alert or Scam Message?
10 February 2023 |

Real Chase Fraud Text Alert or Scam Message?

If you receive a text message from Chase Bank, don't click on any links or call the phone number listed—it could be a scam designed to steal your information and money.

Amex Fraud Text Alert Scams: Spotting a Fraud
10 February 2023 |

Amex Fraud Text Alert Scams: Spotting a Fraud

If you receive a text message from American Express, don't click on any links or call the phone number listed—it could be a scam designed to steal your information and money.

Fake Verizon Text Messages: How to Avoid a Scam
10 February 2023 |

Fake Verizon Text Messages: How to Avoid a Scam

Verizon may send you text messages from time to time with account updates or data usage alerts, but beware—most of these aren't really from Verizon but scammers.

Get an Unexpected Delivery Alert? It May be a UPS Text Scam
10 February 2023 |

Get an Unexpected Delivery Alert? It May be a UPS Text Scam

Scammers are using SMS messages to send fake alerts to customers regarding a package delivery. Here's what to know about this scam.

Venmo Text Scam: Don't Fall For These Fake Messages
10 February 2023 |

Venmo Text Scam: Don't Fall For These Fake Messages

If you received a text from Venmo with a link to verify a payment or deposit, or are asked to complete a survey in exchange for money, it may be a scam.

Guides Relating to Pets and Animals

Sort by:
What Legal Actions Can I Take After a Serious Dog Attack?
16 November 2021 |

What Legal Actions Can I Take After a Serious Dog Attack?

Even the friendliest of dogs may bite when frightened or protecting their loved ones, so it’s a good idea to know your rights when it comes to damages for injuries.

How to Read Pet Food Labels: Our Top Tips
16 November 2021 |

How to Read Pet Food Labels: Our Top Tips

Pet food labels can be confusing, but they are essential. Learn how to read these labels and choose the best food for your furry companion.

Guides in Other Categories...
The Dangers of Fake THC Vapes Flooding The Market

The Dangers of Fake THC Vapes Flooding The Market

If the health dangers surrounding vape cartridges weren't bad enough, fake THC vapes containing harmful contaminants are being sold.

Don't Be Spooked by Michael Burry's Bet Against the Market. The Reporting is Mostly Wrong
31 August 2023 |

Don't Be Spooked by Michael Burry's Bet Against the Market. The Reporting is Mostly Wrong

If you're worried that Michael Burry's has bet a large amount of money ($1.6 Billion) against the stock market and you are on the wrong side, don't be. The media reporting on this topic has been incorrect and we break it down.

How to Get Verified on TikTok
31 July 2023 |

How to Get Verified on TikTok

Securing that little blue checkmark can mean brand collabs, sponsorship opportunities, or protecting your unique content from impersonators.

News Relating to Pets and Animals

Sort by:
News in Other Categories...
Urgent CDC Warning: Eye Drops Linked to 3 Deaths, Loss of Vision
22 March 2023 |

Urgent CDC Warning: Eye Drops Linked to 3 Deaths, Loss of Vision

The CDC is warning eye drops users of a rare bacterial infection from 2 brands of eye drops. The infection is resistant to antibiotics and has resulted in the loss of vision, loss of eyeballs and the death of 3 patients.

Banks May Refund More Zelle Scam Victims in 2023

Banks May Refund More Zelle Scam Victims in 2023

Zelle scams have reached a serious volume. New reports suggest that banks are looking at new refund protections for customers in 2023.

Optus Data Breach - One of the Worst Cyberattacks in Australia
10 October 2022 |

Optus Data Breach - One of the Worst Cyberattacks in Australia

Hackers have gained access to 9.8 million customer records from Optus in Australia, exposing personal information such as driver licence, medicare and passport details.

Roe vs. Wade Overturned: Abortion Rights in Your State

Roe vs. Wade Overturned: Abortion Rights in Your State

Find out what the overturning of Roe vs. Wade means for abortion rights in your state.

Searches for "COVID Vaccine 5G" Hit All-Time High, But Microchips Definitely Not in Vaccine
2 February 2022 |

Searches for "COVID Vaccine 5G" Hit All-Time High, But Microchips Definitely Not in Vaccine

The number of people searching for the term "COVID vaccine 5G" on Google has just hit an all-time high, but there's one way to be sure that there are no microchips.