Scam artists are online pretending to sell friendly dogs to their forever homes, but are taking consumers' money without turning over a new fluffy friend. Often, scammers post ads on free buy-and-sell websites and use endearing photos of the animal they have no intention of sending, or may not even own.
"Con artists see families considering a new pet as an opportunity to get into Arkansans' wallets," said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. "We have seen scam artists using fake email addresses to trick consumers into paying additional fees for shipping the animals via air travel when these cons do not even have a pet for sale."
Attorney General Rutledge and the Federal Trade Commission released the following tips to avoid falling victim to a scammer selling a pet that does not exist.
Visit the breeder or rescue group in person offering the pet. Responsible individuals and organizations will allow potential customers to tour their facility.
Arrange to pick up the animal from a kennel instead of meeting the breeder at a potentially unsafe location. Do not rely on the breeder to ship the animal, and never pay for shipping.
Search the user's profile for warning signs that it may be a scam. Fake breeder websites can often look real because they steal content from legitimate rescue sites. Look for duplicate sites by copying a line from the website into a search engine and looking for identical wording elsewhere on the Internet.
Check the organization's references. Talk to others who have purchased pets from this breeder and the breeder's veterinarian.
Research prices for the breed you are interested in adopting. If someone is advertising a purebred dog for free or at a deeply discounted price, you could be dealing with a fraudulent breeder.
Pay for the puppy with a check or credit card. If a breeder pressures for a wire transfer or prepaid debit card payment, it is probably a scam.
Attorney General Rutledge encourages Arkansans to do their research regarding adopting and purchasing pets. If you have questions about a potential pet shipper, the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association provides a list of trusted shippers across the world.
For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General's office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov.