Alarming rise in pet flipping incidents: Internet Scambusters #570
Pet flipping is all about theft and resale of animals, but the scope of the crime is getting wider -- and so is the range of tricks crooks use to both steal and sell.
We have the details of how they work and what you can do to protect your pet in this week's issue.
We also highlight the growth in scams about supposedly non-allergenic cats and explain how pet sales are being used to rip off would-be buyers.
Let's get started...
Pet Flipping Scammers Step Up Their Game
The incidence of pet flipping, the crime of acquiring and quickly reselling animals for a big profit, is rising alarmingly.
And the variety of tricks scammers use is expanding rapidly, creating a challenge for law enforcement and animal protection groups to keep pace.
Police even fear that organized crime might be behind some of the incidents.
We touched on this topic in one of our earlier issues covering pet scams: 7 Top Pet Scams That Cost Money and Even Animal Lives.
Back then it was just a case of buying and reselling animals in what might otherwise be regarded as a legitimate business.
Latest tricks include stealing animals and then listing them for sale on Craigslist and other online advertisement sites.
Thieves also offer them for sale outside supermarkets and near pet superstores, usually claiming to be in desperate need of money and unable to look after the animal.
In one recently reported incident in Indiana, pet thieves patrolled city streets in a van marked "Animal Care" so as not to arouse suspicion as they scooped up any animals they spotted.
Crooks are also combing lost-and-found sections of classified ads and claiming to be the owners of any animal that has a potential resale value.
Or, they may even use this to acquire mutts, no-value pets, offering them for "adoption" but then demanding a fee as a demonstration of the adopter's earnestness and ability to provide the animal with a good home.
Dog Training Scams
An even sneakier form of pet flipping is being used by phony dog trainers.
These crooks advertise training services and call around to collect their victims' animals, which they subsequently sell or pass on to other criminals who specialize in dog sales.
Even worse, these scammers often charge upfront, stealing victims' money as well as their beloved animals.
Typically, they offer substantial discounts if you buy a block of lessons or agree to a "board and training" package.
This seems to offer great value, but what it really does is inflate the takings for the crook in a single swipe -- and you may not see your money or your pet again.
Another subject we touched on in the earlier issue mentioned above, is the sale of cats that are claimed not to cause reactions for people who are normally allergic to them.
Although there are individuals and even companies that claim to have bred non-allergenic cats, experts say that no such animals exist.
However, there are some breeds that tend to cause less allergic reactions than others.
Now, we have no veterinary scientists on our team here at Scambusters so we can't provide the expertise to advise you on this.
If you suffer cat allergies, you should speak to your local veterinarian for advice.
You might also find the following article useful (though we can't vouch for its accuracy): 10 Hypoallergenic Cat Breeds.
Finally, just a quick reminder of the old saying that a bird in hand is worth two in the bush -- meaning it's better to have possession of something than to have the promise of something even better.
Crooks have used this simple truth to con pet buyers out of increasing sums of money before delivering on their "promises."
They ask for an upfront payment of a deposit for a pet, usually an exotic animal or pedigree.
Then they ratchet up the price by asking for additional sums to cover veterinary charges, transportation, documentation and a whole host of other imaginary costs.
Usually, the animal doesn't exist at all. But even if it does, the buyer ends up paying way too much for it.
How to Avoid Pet Flipping & Other Pet Scams
Check out our earlier issues for information about other pet scams -- the report mentioned above, plus Avoiding Pet Scams.
Here are some other tips:
- If responding to an ad selling a pedigree animal, insist on visiting the supposed owner's home. A scammer won't want you to do this.Also, ask for proof of ownership, registration documents and inoculations. A scammer likely won't have any of these.Ask questions about length of ownership time and the animal's pedigree.
- Don't buy mature pets from individuals outside of a store. If they're being sold as part of a campaign by a group, like an animal rescue center, check the organization's credentials first.For preference, buy rescue animals by visiting the center yourself.
- If you find a stray, look for local posted notices about a missing pet. Otherwise, take it to a rescue shelter.
- To protect your pet against the risk of theft:
- Don't leave it unattended in a public place or an accessible yard.
- Have a computer chip implanted under its skin. This is painless and relatively cheap.
- Keep them properly collared and tagged.
- Keep up to date photos of your pet.
- And keep ownership documents so you can prove it's your pet if it goes missing and is subsequently found.
- If you want training for your pet, check out the credentials of trainers, including their premises or business address.Ask for references and beware of prices that seem to be too good to be true.
Stealing pets is a particularly nasty crime because it often deprives owners of something they value even more than money -- an individual that's part of their family.
Even buyers can get caught up in the emotional whirl that follows. And, of course, the scam can be even more distressing for the animals themselves.
Play your part to stamp out pet flipping by following our guidelines and alerting your friends.
Time to conclude for today -- have a great week!