Woof, Be Cautious! How Pet Scams Work & Tips to Protect Yourself | Trend Micro News
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Inside out_pet scam

Woof, Be Cautious! How Pet Scams Work & Tips to Protect Yourself

Inside out_pet scam
March 2, 2021

Are you looking for a pet online? Or, have you ever seen a cute puppy for adoption on social media? The demand for pets is on the rise, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and so are pet scams! Scammers are trying their best to steal money from potential pet buyers/adopters. This article will show you some facts about pet scams, common tactics scammers use, and tips on avoiding pet scams.

Facts About Online Pet Scams 


According to the Better Business Bureau(BBB):

  • The median loss of a pet scam in 2020 is $750.
  • The number of pet scam reports has increased by nearly 486% in 2020 (projected to be 4,300 reports) since 2017 (884 reports).
  • The losses from pet scams in 2020 (estimated at over $3 million) are six times more than the total losses reported in 2017 ($448,123).
Be cautious of pet scams!
Be cautious of pet scams!

Common Tactics of Pet Scams

1. Irresistible offers. Scammers or “breeders” may have their own website or set up attractive social media pages such as Facebook to hook you. Often, they claim to have free pets for adoption or cheap pets for sale.

A scammy online pet store.
An online pet store scam. Source: PetScam.com
Trend Micro Check's Chrome extension will block scam websites for you automatically.
The Trend Micro Check‘s Chrome extension blocks scam websites for you automatically.

2. Excuses that you can’t see the pets in person. When you start to ask for more details about the pets, you’ll only get photos (most of the time nothing) and be denied the opportunity to see the pets in person.

3. Request for additional money or you are rushed into making decisions. Scammers usually ask you to wire money in advance or pay extra money for various reasons such as delivery, to process paperwork, pet supplies, and more. What’s worse, scammers might tell you to pay quickly, or the pets will die, and then threaten that you will be held responsible for the death.

Pet scam on Facebook.
A pet scam on Facebook. The adopter was not allowed to pick up the pet in person and was asked to pay extra money for the pet’s “paperwork.” Source: Reddit

In the end, you never receive the pet and cannot contact the scammers as they have deleted all forms of contact upon receiving your funds. Naturally, you will not be able to get a refund – a complete waste of time, money, and emotions.

How to Avoid Pet Scams


We recommend that you go to local shelters or stores to pick up your pet and avoid making purchases online. However, if you still want to search for a pet online, here’s how to protect yourself from online pet scams:

  • Do not pay anything until you’ve seen the pets in person. Legitimate pet shelters or breeders will allow you to look at the pets in person and request additional information about them. Something is fishy if the store/organization refuses your request to see the pets.
  • Choose breeders/sellers that accept payment with a credit card for better protection. Payments with gift cards and digital wiring networks such as Zelle are not protected. There is NO guarantee when it comes to refunding or disputes.
  • Know the online store and pet. Do a reverse image search for the pet you want. Search for and learn more about the store/shelter – pictures, reviews, and background information. 
  • Check if a website is safe using Trend Micro Check
    Copy-paste a web address and send it to Trend Micro Check on Messenger for immediate scam detection:
Use Trend Micro Check to check if a link is safe.
Use Trend Micro Check to check if a link is safe.
Trend Micro Check is also available on WhatsApp.
Trend Micro Check is also available on WhatsApp.

Suspect a pet scam? Report it and help more people! You can file complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), BBB Scam TrackerPetscams.com, or Canadian Antifraud Centre.

Trend Micro Check is an all-in-one tool to detect scams and misinformation. Try Trend Micro Check for free now: Messenger / WhatsApp / Chrome extension
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