Find a reputable business?

Business Consumer Alliance Blog

Shopping for an Exotic Pet? Watch for Scams

toucan sitting in a tree with leaves

These days you can find almost anything advertised on social media. If you’re looking for an exotic pet, you may run across posts selling exotic and rare pets. Beware, because many of those posts are made by scammers that aren’t selling anything. Instead, they’re looking to steal your money. Here’s some great tips to help you avoid falling for a pet scam.

Pet scams typically work like this: You see a post featuring a rare and cute animal for sale. The poster says to contact them by direct messenger and they require you to pay. But the only accepted payment methods are through wire transfer, girt card, payment apps such as CashApp, or bitcoin. You’re excited to get your new pet and start preparing their new home. But they contact you with a problem, such as more money needed for shipping, custom fees, vaccines, crating, etc. You pay because you want the pet. But then they contact you again with some other made up problem and requesting more money. When you question them or refuse to pay more, the seller cuts off contact. They may even block you or remove their page altogether. You're left with no pet and no way to recover all the money you’ve spent. You realize it was a scam all along.

Orange and Black Frog

Unfortunately, this is the story so many have run into trying to buy pets online. Scammers make attractive posts and websites to lure in innocent victims. Here are some telling signs that you are dealing with a scammer:

**Seller doesn’t take credit card payment** - Scammers prefer quick payment methods such as those mentioned above. These payments are fast, often untraceable, and it is difficult for theft victims to recover their money. It is advised to always pay by credit card when making online purchases. Credit card payments offer protections if the seller doesn’t deliver on the offer.

**The pet’s image is found on other websites** - It is not uncommon for scammers to steal images from other websites to use in their phony posts. Try using a reverse image search before contacting the seller to see if the pet’s image shows up elsewhere.

**Is the price too good to be true?** - Do some research to find out the usual cost of the pet. If the selling price is considerably lower, use caution. It most likely is a scam to bait consumers into buying, when there is actually no pet for sale.

female using touchpad of netbook and shopping online

If you are looking to buy a pet online, consider these helpful tips:

  • Google search the advertiser's email address and phone number to see if any information shows up that would alert you to a scam.
  • Ask to pick up the animal yourself. If there is hesitation or refusal to allow you to do so, look elsewhere, it’s more than likely a scam.
  • Don’t make any payment by wire transfer, gift card, reload card, or similar methods. There is little to no recourse if things go sour.
  • If the pet will be shipped, compare the shipping price provided to that of other shippers. If the amount is extremely low, use caution.
  • Ask for the name and contact information of the shipper and verify that it is a real shipper.
  • Ask the seller the following questions:
    • Where are they located?
    • What veterinarian did they use for vaccinations and other required documents?
    • What type of payment is accepted?

If you have been scammed by a pet scam, file a complaint with Business Consumer Alliance with as much information as possible. This will alert other potential victims. Also, contact the website or social media platform where you saw the ad to inform them of the scam. Hopefully they will remove the post immediately or suspend the account. Depending on whether or not payment was sent and how, you may be able to contact your financial institution to stop payment. If you find similar ads on other sites, contact them also with your experience.

If you’re looking for a pet, try your local pet shelter. Follow BCA on Facebook to stay updated on scam alerts, consumer tips, and trending industry topics.

About Business Consumer Alliance Business Consumer Alliance (BCA) is a non-profit company that started in 1928. The broad purpose of BCA is to promote business self-regulation. BCA's mission is achieved by assisting consumers in resolving complaints with businesses and using that complaint information, along with other relevant information such as customer reviews, to forecast business reliability. With community support, BCA can identify trustworthy and ethical businesses and warn the public to avoid unscrupulous businesses whose purpose is to defraud the marketplace. BCA also helps businesses promote themselves by providing services and tools to protect their business and reach out to their customers. BCA obtains its funding from member businesses who support the mission and purpose of the organization and who agree to abide by high standards of ethical business practices.