Looking for a pet online? Don't get scammed!
Pet scam criminals often use free websites, Craig’s List, local newspapers, or Facebook to advertise pets that do not exist. Expensive animals, like Bulldogs or toy breeds, are offered at very low prices. Animals are offered up for adoption at no cost—all you have to do is pay for the shipping. If you see an ad like this, chances are it is a scam.
These scammers are criminals. Their goal is to take your money. They will lie, they will tell you sob stories, they will send you pictures of adorable animals, they will assure you of their faith and religion - anything to get your money! They use the names of legitimate pet shippers; they pirate websites; they illegally use logos of other companies. If you see an offer that is too good to be true, it probably is. It probably is a scam!
- Say they are giving the animal up because of a family hardship, relocation, death of the person who owned the pets, the climate is not good, etc.
- Use a free Gmail, Yahoo, or similar address.
- Call the pets their “babies” and insist that they only want a loving, forever home. They may send you a list of questions about how you will take care of the pet, if you’ve had a pet before, etc.
- Say they will use a “courier” or “pet delivery service” but not tell you the name of the “courier”
- Offer the pet in one location—close to you—and then tell you that because of some situation, the animals or they are somewhere else where you cannot see them or pick them up.
- Want payment by Western Union, MoneyGram, or a similar service. They might tell you to lie to the Western Union agent, saying you are sending the money to a family member rather than buying something.
- Offer to ship from an international location to your doorstep for $250 or $350. (Generally it costs more to ship a puppy internationally than it does for a person to fly; and there are other expenses—kennels, veterinarian, etc. You can NEVER expect to pay only $250-$350 for an international shipment!)
- Tell you they want to ship the pet within 24 hours of payment. (This is impossible due to the time required to obtain import license and veterinary health certificates!)
- Use different company names or variations of the same company name in the text of their message.
- Tell you to lie to the Western Union agent—saying that you are sending the money to family or for personal reasons, rather than making a purchase.
- Tell you that their books are being audited; the head office is moving, or something similar.
- Tell you to send the payment to a different office - usually, but not always, in Cameroon.
- Once you have sent payment for the shipping, there will be a problem: the pet needs a different kind a crate; needs a health inspection; needs insurance; etc., for an additional fee. If you don’t pay right away, they add charges for additional feeding, threaten you with legal charges for animal abandonment, etc.
- Not include a telephone number in their email; not be available when you call. (If the country code for the phone is 237, it is a scam!)
- Use the name and website address of a legitimate pet shipper in their email.
- Have poor spelling and grammar in their email.
- Sample of actual scam SHIPPER email
- Sample of actual scam ADVERTISER email
Purchasing a Pet Online
- Do an online search (Bing, Google, AOL, etc.) for the email address of the advertiser. Scammers often place ads on several free sites or locations. If you find multiple ads, it is most likely a scam.
- Try to make arrangements to pick the animal up yourself, saying you will fly to wherever the animal is. If they can’t make those arrangements, it is probably a scam.
- Do an online search on part of the text used in the email you receive from the shipper. Especially search for their introduction or information about the company.
- Do not make any payments through Western Union, MoneyGram, or similar services. Once this payment leaves your hands, there is no recourse for recovery or refund.
- Ask for the name and contact information of the “shipper” the advertiser plans to use.
- If they claim to be a member of IPATA, you can easily check on that by using our “Find a Pet Shipper” page. On occasion, there are new members that are not listed on the IPATA online directory. If you have questions, the only way to confirm a companies membership in IPATA is to contact IPATA directly.
Already been Scammed
- Stop contact with the scammer; simply ignore their email or telephone calls or block them.
- File a report with your local law enforcement and with your local FBI or equivalent office.
- File a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center: www.ic3.gov. This agency is a collaborative effort among several law enforcement agencies who use criminal email addresses and websites to track these, and hopefully, apprehend these criminals.
- Contact the publication or site where you saw the ad. Let them know that this advertiser is a scammer, give them the email address of the scammer, and ask them to remove the ad(s) and to blacklist this person.
- Talk with a manager at the MoneyGram or Western Union office you used to send the money. Be sure to take a copy of the emails with all the telephone numbers, names, email addresses, etc. of the scammers.
- If you used Western Union, forward the copy of the email with the scammers recipient information to Ask them to publish information about the scam by contacting:
- If you used MoneyGram, call: 1-(800)-MoneyGram. Ask them to release information about the scam by contacting: 214-303-9923 or
- Do an online search for the advertiser’s email address. If you find the ad on other publications, let the site know about your experience so they can remove the ad or blacklist the advertiser.
- Forward only one email you received from the advertiser and only one email you received from the scam shipper to . They will be added to the IPATA Scam Alert List.
How to Report a Scam
Report the scam to as many of the following list as you can. The more you report it, the more you can save other people from being scammed. Also, please forward an email from the fake advertiser/seller to so they can be added to our current Scams List.
- Petscams.com - Report Scam Websites - How to shut down a fraudulent website
- Artists Against 419 - Fake Sites Database (Search for fake pet shippers/sellers)
- MoneyGram - Report Fraud - Fraud Prevention
- or Call: +1 800 666-3947
- Fraud.org - Pet Adoption Scams / Fraud.org - File a complaint
- Scam Watch - Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)
- FTC - Federal Trade Commission - Scam Alerts Report/File a Complaint
- Facebook - Stop Animal Scams | Scam Busters
- Antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca (Canada)
- Content.met.police.uk (UK)
- Petsonthenet.co.nz (New Zealand Only)
- Tineye.com (Reverse Image Search)
- Previous Scam Lists
- 2016 Pet Scammers List
- 2015 Pet Scammers List
IPATA is a trade association. Our members are professional pet shippers located in more than 80 countries around the world. Our members ship pets under their own company names. IPATA does not ship pets, and there is no pet shipping company with “ipata” in the name. If you see a company using our name, please report it to us right away: .