How does a Puppy Scam Work?
Puppy Scams are online scams run by organized criminals. This scam is being run at an industrial level with some criminal groups creating 100s of websites to convince consumers to part with their money. Commonly called a “Puppy Scam”, this scam can use kittens, horses, tortoises or any other pets as bait.
The scam normally works in three parts:
1 The Hook
The hook is simple. The scammer will offer pets for sale or adoption. These scammers will create a custom website and advertize on Facebook, CraigsList, TradingPost and any other classified ad websites.
They will interact with you by mail, SMS or phone to convince you that they have a pet to sell or give away.
The aim here is to get the intended victim emotionally invested in a fictitious pet. When people act on emotion they are easier to scam.
A scammer can target 50 people at a time. They use a series of “canned” responses which they copy and paste when replying to you. The emails are long and verbose asking questions and answering questions you have not asked. If you ask a question that is not in their script they give a short curt answer.
If the “pet” is being sold and not offered for adoption the scammer will con their victims into giving hundreds of dollars in the first part of the scam
2. The Sting
This is where the majority of money is stolen.
You are now emotionally invested in the pet. If the pet was sold (not for adoption) you are also financially invested as well.
The scammer will create a Pet Delivery Website so that you can track the delivery of your new pet.
You will be given a “tracking number” which will direct you to a webpage created and controlled by the scammer. This webpage will show you that your pet is being delivered.
A day later you will receive an email that the delivery is delayed as you must pay fees. The scammer will update the webpage created for you in order to convince you that the fees are legitimate. Fees can include:
- Delivery fees
- Cage fees
- Ventilated cage fees
- All of the above
There is no limit to the amount or variation of fees. If you pay one, they demand another and another until you cannot afford to pay more or you realise it is a scam.
As you are emotionally invested in the pet you are expecting to receive the scammers will take full advantage of this and blame you for cruelty because you are delaying the delivery.
The loss to the victim is now in the thousands.
3. The Threat
Once you refuse to pay anymore money to the scammer they will threaten you. Once of the most common threats is “Animal Abandonment”. Again this is part of the scam. Animal abandonment is a crime and rightly so but in this scenario, even if it were true, animal abandonment laws would not apply. You can see more on animal abandonment here:
Puppy Scammers can go as far as to create a website that looks like a law enforcement website. If they think they can frighten you into paying more money they will continue to phone, email and text.
Why does the Puppy Scam Work?
Pet scams are not new. They have been around since online scams began. In the past couple of years they have become more of an issue. The Better Business Bureau states in their report (see here) that an unusually high number of those targeted in the schemes are in their late teens or 20s.
This could be down to several things. Firstly, online shopping is now the norm. You can buy anything online now and this has been embraced by a younger generation.
Secondly, this scam was not as widespread in the past. Criminal gangs are now using this method to scam consumers on an industrial scale.
Lastly, your emotions are scammed first. The scammer will use the cutest pictures they can find on the internet to make you fall in love with a pet they do not possess. In this way it is like the typical “Love Scam”
Education here is the key.
The majority of internet users would now ignore a standard scam by a “Nigerian Prince asking for help to move a vast inheritance”, if you could just pay the barrister fees.
Most people would not fall for the classic “Lottery Scam” as almost everyone now knows that technique.
The techniques these criminals use are still relatively unknown and until they receive more coverage these scammers will continue to scam consumers.