Indiana AG warns Hoosiers of online pet adoption scams

Attorney General Curtis Hill said that their have been recent complaints of Hoosiers who have been affected by fraudulent pet adoption websites.

INDIANA, USA — Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill and Indiana State Veterinarians are warning Hoosiers to be on watch for online pet adoption scams.  

According to a release, both offices have received complaints recently from citizens who have made down payments on animals they found on the internet. People making these down payments soon learned they would never receiving animals and they were duped by fraudsters.

“These scammers know that increased numbers of people are shopping online during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Hill. “They’re banking on consumers’ willingness to arrange delivery of pets sight unseen — other than the cute pictures consumers may have seen on the internet.”

Hill says scammers sometimes create websites made to look like they are operated by legitimate entities, either selling or adopting out pets. They may advertise the websites on social media or in email pitches.

The release said these fraudulent ads often feature photos of puppies or kittens.

After a pet is ordered and a payment is made for the pet and shipping charges, would-be buyers often learn that other fees are required — perhaps for vaccinations or other veterinary care. 

Fraudsters also concoct stories about additional shipping expenses — claiming, perhaps, that an animal has landed in another state, requiring some type of permit expense for the stop-over at an airport.

The FBI and National Consumers League both have taken notice of such scams nationwide. They offer such tips as the following, adapted from their websites:

  • Meet the pet in person if at all possible.
  • Never pay any fee to obtain an animal that you have not seen with your own eyes (as opposed to via pictures or videos online).
  • Don’t pay to ship a pet if you can’t verify the seller is a reputable breeder or rescue organization.
  • Do your homework on the seller before sending any form of payment. Look for contact information, check credentials, and confirm reviews from previous clients.
  • If you virtually chat with the seller, watch for odd phrasing or typos.
  • If the seller asks you to pay via wire transfer or gift card, don’t. There’s a huge chance it’s a scam.
  • If anyone asks you to send money overseas, particularly to pet adoption scam hotspots such as Cameroon or India, it is a scam.
  • Beware of “free” pet offers online. These are often simply ruses to get you to pay shipping or other fees for non-existent animals.

Anyone who believes they have been the victim of a scam or targeted by scammers should file a complaint with the Office of Attorney General at indianaconsumer.com or by calling 1-800-382-5516.

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