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How to spot and avoid pet travel scams

Pet parents always want the best for their fur babies, but unscrupulous cybercriminals take advantage of unsuspecting pet owners by luring them into puppy scams. Puppy scams have been around for many years, but they have multiplied rapidly over the past few years with easy access to the internet.

If you are buying a new pet online or trying to move your pet to a different city, it is best to be aware of pet travel scams before going ahead with your booking.

What are puppy scams?

Puppy scams are so cleverly disguised by the perpetrators that they can take anyone in. This is how they usually work – a purebred pup or a kitten is listed online on Facebook, Gumtree or Craigslist for a ridiculously low price. Interested pup parents are told a sad story about how the pet has no family and needs to be adopted immediately.

On further enquiry, the scammer tells the pet parent that the pet is free or very inexpensive and that they only need to pay the shipping costs. The scammer does not allow the pet parents to meet the pup and often has excuses for not seeing the puppy before bringing the dog home.

The covid-19 pandemic has seen a disproportionate increase in the number of puppy scams. With the coronavirus induced lockdown in many countries, people all over the world have turned to pets to help with the loneliness of quarantine. Several people looking for pets during the lockdown have been cheated by pet scammers. Puppy scammers pretend to live in a place that is far away from the customer and use the lockdown as an excuse not to meet before the transaction.

Unfortunately, there is no puppy or kitten; it is just an elaborate ploy to cheat unsuspecting victims of their money.

What are pet travel scams?

Scammers create a fake website claiming to transport pets internationally. These websites are usually a copy of reputed pet travel agencies. The availability of cheap domain names makes it very easy to build websites that look authentic.

Pirate websites use logos and names similar to reputed companies and aim to cheat unsuspecting pet parents of their money. Pet transport scammers ask for a large deposit and fees and disappear as soon as they receive the money.

It is important to always research the company before entering into a contract with them. If you are looking to transport your pet from one city to another, find reputed and accredited pet travel agents to help you with the relocation.

The Petraveller website and logo have been copied and used on pirate websites by pet scammers. If you happen to come across such websites, please notify Petraveller.

How can you identify pet scams?

Pet scammers are extremely resourceful; there are hundreds of scam websites online, and every day, more and more of them get reported. Here are some ways of identifying a scammer:

  • Most scammers use untraceable or non-refundable payment methods such as Western Union or MoneyGram instead of credit cards and PayPal.
  • Correspondence from pet scammers will usually be from a third-party provider such as Gmail or Hotmail. Their phone numbers are generally untraceable too. 
  • They advertise on social media websites like Facebook or Gumtree for pets at very low prices. Remember, if it is too good to be true, it usually isn’t. 
  • Puppy scams offer purebred puppies for free asking pet parents to pay only the shipping charges.

How can you avoid pet travel scams?

Though pet scammers are many all over the world, there are several ways of checking if these breeders or transport agencies are genuine.

  • Check if the pet transport company is accredited to a professional pet travel association such as IPATA, RACA, IATA and ATA. Most reputed pet transport companies are members of IPATA – International Pet and Animal Transport Association. Check for the IPATA logo on the website. The IPATA website maintains a list of known scammers as well as genuine pet travel companies. Search the website to check the authenticity of the company you are dealing with. 
  • Research the company or the breeder well. Go online and look for reviews and social media presence. Facebook reviews cannot be edited and will give you a good idea about the breeder or company and its practices. Avoid companies that do not have good reviews and no positive social media presence.
  • Reach out to online communities on social media to get recommendations and reviews of the company or breeder you are dealing with. Talking with other pet parents who have used the same service is an excellent way of assessing the company.
  • Most scammers do not care about pets; they are in this to hustle money from unsuspecting pet parents. Look for lack of care and concern in the correspondence with the company and if they are extremely money-oriented.

What should I do if I see a pet scam?

Pet scammers are always on the lookout for their next victim. If you think a cyber-criminal has contacted you, it is important to report the website to save other people from falling victim. Here’s what you should do when you see a pet scam:

  • Do not disclose your personal information unless you are sure that you are dealing with a genuine company or breeder.
  • Do not transfer any money through untraceable methods like Western Union. Make sure the company or breeder is legitimate before transferring money.
  • Report the scam website to IPATA and petscams.com.

Get expert help

Pet scammers are getting smarter, and unfortunately, it is very easy to be taken in. As a pet parent, the best practice would be to research the company extensively before buying or organising pet transport. If you are unsure whether the company is genuine or not, visit the IPATA website for more information on scammers and how to identify a scammer.

Current active pet scams replicating Petraveller are petravellerexperience.com and petstraveller.com. These scams have been reported to the relevant authorities. 

International pet travel can be tricky, and an accredited pet travel company can help transport your pet safely and seamlessly. If you plan to travel with your pet to an international destination, reach out to Petraveller for more information on international pet travel and a free pet travel quote.