Online pet scams on the rise

If you’re looking to buy a furry companion this holiday season, you may want to think twice before purchasing one online.

Indiana Attorney General, Curtis Hill, and State Veterinarian, Dr. Bret Marsh, say online pet adoption scams are on the rise.

Both offices have received complaints recently from citizens who have made down payments on animals they found on the internet — only to learn after paying multiple fees and never receiving animals that they were duped by fraudsters.

Some scammers create websites to look like they are operated by legitimate entities, either selling or adopting out pets. These sites may even be advertised on social media or email pitches.

These fraudulent ads often feature photos of puppies or kittens.

Here’s how you can avoid becoming a victim of the scam:

-meet the pet in person if possible

-never pay any fee to obtain a pet that you have not seen with your own eyes (as opposed to via pictures or videos online)

-don’t pay to ship a pet if you can’t verify the seller is a reputable breeder or rescue organization

-do your homework on the seller before sending any form of payment. Look for contact information, check credentials, and confirm reviews from previous clients

-if you virtually chat with the seller, watch for off phrasing or typos

-if the seller asks you to pay by wire transfer or gift card. Don’t.

-if anyone asks you to send money overseas, particularly to pet adoption scams hotspots like Cameroon or India, it’s a scam

-beware of “free” pet offers online. There are often ruses to get you to pay shipping or other fees for non-existent animals

If you believe you may have been a victim of a scam, file a complaint with the Office of Attorney General at indianaconsumer.com or by calling 1-800-382-5516.

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