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...
FedEx Text Scam: Fake Delivery Alerts & Notifications
23 September 2022 |

FedEx Text Scam: Fake Delivery Alerts & Notifications

FedEx is warning customers of a fake text alert going around regarding an issue with a delivery. Learn how to avoid this tricky scam.

Real Chase Fraud Text Alert or Scam Message?
6 September 2022 |

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.

Truist Text Alert: How to Identify a Real Text from a Scam
6 September 2022 |

Truist Text Alert: How to Identify a Real Text from a Scam

You may think that that Truist have sent you a text alert about your account. Here's how to check if it is actually a scam.

Free Netflix for a Year: Don't Believe the Hype, It's a Scam
29 August 2022 |

Free Netflix for a Year: Don't Believe the Hype, It's a Scam

Netflix has never offered a free subscription for an entire year. If you receive this offer from "Netflix," it's a scam.

Received an Amazon OTP Text? It Could Be a Scam
16 August 2022 |

Received an Amazon OTP Text? It Could Be a Scam

If you received an Amazon OTP text message out of the blue, it could be a sign that someone else is trying to log into your account.

How to Beat Airbnb Payment Scams That Can Leave You Stranded
11 July 2022 |

How to Beat Airbnb Payment Scams That Can Leave You Stranded

When booking your next travel destination via Airbnb, be sure to always pay using the site's online system, or you could be scammed out of your money.

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...
Beat eBay Scams and Stay Safe When Shopping Online

Beat eBay Scams and Stay Safe When Shopping Online

Whether it's a counterfeit product, a sketchy seller, or a price too good to be true, eBay scams are widespread, so it's important to know how to protect yourself.

How to Claim Free Grubhub Delivery for a Year with Amazon Prime

How to Claim Free Grubhub Delivery for a Year with Amazon Prime

Amazon's acquisition of 2% of Just Eat Takeaway is good news for Amazon Prime subscribers—free food delivery from Grubhub is just a few clicks away.

Cars with Cheap Insurance: Lower Your Monthly Costs
6 July 2022 |

Cars with Cheap Insurance: Lower Your Monthly Costs

In the market for a new car? The cost of the vehicle itself isn't the only thing you want to consider. If you want to keep your costs down, get a car with low car insurance rates.

News Relating to Pets and Animals

Sort by:
News in Other Categories...
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.

Social Media: The New Favorite Amongst Scammers
1 February 2022 |

Social Media: The New Favorite Amongst Scammers

Social media platforms are possibly the most used tools in committing fraud, responsible for $770 million in losses.

Beware When Scanning QR Codes, Even for Menus
20 January 2022 |

Beware When Scanning QR Codes, Even for Menus

The FBI is warning Americans about a new scam circulating in the country involving fraudulent QR codes in public places.

$30M Worth in Counterfeit Goods Seized in Los Angeles
2 December 2021 |

$30M Worth in Counterfeit Goods Seized in Los Angeles

Fake Gucci, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton handbags and clothing were just some of the items found in a large shipment of counterfeit goods coming in from China.