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May 29

Detecting Pet Scams to Avoid Falling Victim

Posted on May 29, 2019 at 10:58 AM by Deputy Aaron Scheller

As we continue to use the internet more and more for our daily lives, we are finding more trends of crimes through our computers. The next few blogs I am going to highlight some internet fraudulent activity that is growing in popularity and incorporating real examples from crime reports I come across. Blog topics will range from identity theft type crimes to money schemes.

On this blog, I’m focusing on the pet scam.

You are surfing the internet looking for that perfect little canine companion that you can bring into your home to make part of your family. A few minutes into your online search, and there it is … the perfect little puppy you always dreamed of having. Or maybe you are online for an altogether different reason, and a pop-up ad of the cutest dog fills your screen and grabs your attention. Without a moment’s hesitation, you click on the website link or ad to get more details about the puppy.

browing tablet for puppies

What greets you is a legitimate-looking website that shows you dozens of photos of dogs available for very reasonable prices. The accompanying advertisement might state that there are only a few puppies left, or maybe that you are getting the very last puppy of the litter. You call the number listed and someone picks up and provides answers to all your questions, however, if you ask to see the dog in person, they will give you some reason why it is not possible. It might be bad timing, too far a distance or some other reason why that they cannot meet.

browsing online for puppies for sale

However, they will persuade you into purchasing the dog and paying additional fees to cover such things as transport, customs or medical costs before the dog can be delivered. Once they receive payment, they may continue to demand more money for additional fees, or they will stop responding to your calls or emails.If it is scam, they will have asked for payment by way of Western Union, money order, or gift card because all three of these are virtually untraceable.

western union USE

Take Western Union as an example, which offers international money transfer services to more than 200 countries worldwide. All the individual needs from you is the 10-digit Money Transfer Control Number you get when you visit a Western Union agent office to make the payment. With this number, they can go to any Western Union and withdraw the money.
The same goes with gift cards, which are the same as cash. All the individual needs is the card number and the pin on the back of the card. With these, they can go online and make purchases without needing the card in its physical form.

So, how do we avoid being a victim? By doing our research and looking out for red flags that may indicate a pet scam. Is the price for the dog so amazingly low that you feel as if you are getting a deal of a lifetime – it’s most likely a scam. Is the dog coming from a foreign and faraway country – this may also be a scam. Is the seller being pushy and rushing you to make a decision and pay in advance with a money order or Western Union – this too may be a scam.

faceless woman holding a couple of puppies

The best way to verify the legitimacy of the pet sale is of course to meet in person and handle the exchange of payment and dog at that point. A couple of other ways are to meet and learn more about the dog through a video chat service, or to ask the seller to share photos with a variety of random objects that can include dated items such as a calendar or newspaper. I encourage you to check out the latest Let’s Talk Public Safety leaflet “Detecting and Reporting Online Pet Sale Scams” when you get a chance, and share with your family members and friends.

Also if you have been a victim of a pet scam, it is important to file a report it to the Better Business Bureau, and if the scam happened through a website, consider also sharing the information with others through

As always, thanks for subscribing to Safety Speak. If you have any public safety-related questions or concerns you want to share with the City or the Diamond Bar-Walnut Sheriff's Department, or if you have suggestions for topics to cover in this blog, be sure to let me know using the Ask a Deputy feature.