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Attorney general issues pet-scam alert

| July 30, 2021 1:00 AM

BOISE — Attorney General Lawrence Wasden on Thursday warned Idahoans to avoid buying pets over the internet.

Over the past year, his Consumer Protection Division has experienced an increase in complaints about scam websites that advertise puppies and kittens, particularly popular and hard-to-find breeds.

Consumers report paying thousands of dollars to fraudulent sellers via payment apps such as Venmo or Zelle for what turn out to be nonexistent pets, Wasden said. These scammers often reside outside the United States, making them virtually impossible to locate. Once consumers send their money, it’s all but impossible to recover.

The following tips can help consumers avoid pet scams:

Avoid shopping for pets on the internet. Find a local, experienced breeder who can help educate you about the breed you want to adopt.

Never purchase a pet sight-unseen. Visit the breeder at their location and avoid those who won’t let you meet a pet’s parents. Puppies and kittens shouldn’t be purchased “through the mail.”

Be careful how you pay. Don’t use money-wiring services, gift cards or payment apps to purchase a pet. Such transactions can’t be refunded or traced. A credit card allows you to dispute a purchase.

Keep all documents and communications from the breeder. Maintain records in case you need to document fraud or a seller’s misrepresentations.

Consider adopting from your local shelter or pet rescue sites. Idaho’s animal shelters always have pets in need of safe, happy homes. Local breed rescues also are in need of permanent or foster homes.

Report pet fraud. If you have lost money through an internet pet scam, file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) and Petscams.com, which tracks fraudulent websites. File a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office if you encounter fraudulent or deceptive pet sellers located in Idaho.

Get more information. For more information about internet pet scams read the BBB’s article about how consumers can better guard against fake pet sellers.