Consumer Alert- Internet Pet Sale Scams are on the Rise in New Hampshire

by Lucia on August 20, 2020

Concord, NH — Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald warns New Hampshire consumers about several recent reports of internet pet sale scams. The scams involve puppies or kittens that are advertised for sale online. The animals will typically be advertised on a website that appears legitimate and offers purebred puppies and kittens for sale at a low price. The scammers always claim that animals need to be shipped and do not provide on option for in person pickup. Once a consumer sends money to purchase a pet, the scammer will then demand additional money in order to complete the transaction. The most common justifications for the additional payments include specific requirements of the shipping airline (such as a temperature controlled crate), the cost of shipping insurance, and additional paperwork or shots. Consumers never receive the pet they paid for. Scammers will typically insist the consumer pay for the animals and the additional fee using a money transfer service such as Zelle or with gift cards. Most internet pet sale scams operate using a seemingly legitimate website featuring pictures of available dogs. The photos are usually taken from other legitimate websites. Victims of the scam are at high risk of losing their money because most of these scammers are located overseas.

Attorney General MacDonald offers the following advice to avoid falling victim to this scam:

~ Avoid buying a pet online unless you are using an established rescue group.

~  Be suspicious of any long-distance breeder who will need to ship the animal to you.

~ Be extra cautious when buying a rare or expensive breed being sold at a discount price. Some examples of breeds that have been identified in scams are Bernese Mountain Dogs, Pomeranians, and Maine Coon Cats. If the price appears too good to be true, it is likely a scam.

~Consumers should never transfer or wire money to people they do not know. Legitimate breeders will never ask for payment by gift card.

~  Be on the lookout for emails or messages containing misspellings or grammatical errors.

~ Ask to speak to the seller over the phone. Ask detailed questions and thoroughly verify a seller before deciding to purchase a pet. If possible, ask for references that can verify the legitimacy of the breeder and contact those references.

If you or someone you know has fallen victim to this scam, report it to your local police department and the Consumer Protection and Antitrust Bureau of the Attorney General’s Office. You can file a complaint by calling the Consumer Hotline at (603) 271-3641.