Are you shopping online for a new pet? Be aware of scams…

By Geneviève Cournoyer-Scalise August 31 2020

Pet deals are popular on the web, there are plenty on social media and classified ads websites. If you are looking into getting a new pet, online shopping can be an interesting option if you stay vigilant, the experience can quickly turn into a nightmare for victims of fraud.

Finding the right pet that will join your family is often a matter of love at first sight. Scammers know it and will not hesitate to use all kinds of traps to trick you. Adopting an animal can be a noble and generous gesture, but it is important to ensure that the animal is real, and the seller/donor is a trustworthy person, without being charmed by a pet or being tempted by the idea of “saving” a distressed animal. The rule of thumb: ask questions!

Here are 5 tips to avoid online scams

  1. Beware of bargains

A high number of fraudulent advertisements are associated with certain types of animals or popular breeds: English Bulldog, Yorkshire, Maltese, Chihuahua, Husky, Bengal cats, Sphynx, Hummingbird species, Cockatoo and Macaw (parrot species). A Bengal kitten will cost around $1000, and for a purebred Bengal cat the cost will increase to $1500. Scammers often lure their victims with low-cost offers or will use the mention “free” to steal some personal information from you rather than your money. An honest seller or professional breeder knows the real value of an animal on the market and they would never let one go for a cheap fee. Keep in mind that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is … avoid contacting these advertisers.

  1. Validate the Seller/Donor Details

Once your research is complete, verify the information you have in hand. For how long the account has been active? Does the seller/donor have other published ads? What are the comments about him and his ranking? Is the account name linked to the same email you are communicating with? Does the area code of the phone number on the account match the current place of residence of the animal as the seller? Does the seller have a website, a FB page, or other accounts on another classified ads website? Do an exhaustive research on the web and stay alert until you have no more doubt regarding the identity of the person you are corresponding with.

  1. Use Different Means of Communication

It is recommended to visit and see the animal prior any purchase, but this is not always possible given the distance and your location. During your first interaction with the seller, ask for more pictures of the pet. Compare the photos with those published in the ad and make sure that it is the same animal. You can also do a reverse image search using Google to confirm that these are not generic photos.

Thanks to technology, nowadays it’s easy to contact people abroad at no cost. An internet connection and a mobile application that allows video calls can be a great plan to reassure you. A video call will also give you an overview of the living conditions of the animal. You will be able to see the living conditions of the animal and learn more about its behavior and its physical condition as you are establishing a genuine contact with the seller/donor. Do not hesitate to communicate with this person several times before proceeding to a money transfer. If you cannot easily get in touch with the seller/donor: you left few messages but no reply, the voicemail is not activated or not associated to a name, the message is inaudible or inconsistent in the voicemail, do not waste your time and resume your research. This may not be a fraud, but clearly the seller/donor is not as serious as you are. A reliable person or a serious breeder will take the time to answer all your questions without being offended, because just like you, they will want to be sure that their animal will be in good hands with a conscientious and responsible new owner.

  1. Transportation Regulations and Costs

Even with a donation, shipping costs should be considered. A rigorous planning process needs to be set up between the seller/donor and the new owner. If the pet has to travel by air to join you, documents will be required for its transportation even with a domestic airline. To learn more about the paperwork and the conditions may apply to your situation, contact the federal veterinary services of the destination country.

The travel kennel must also meet the chosen airline requirements. Scammers are aware of it and may try to play with you about it. For example, “The kennel has been refused by the transporter, a new cage will cost an additional $500.00 … there is an error on the vet’s documents, $200.00 is required for the correction…” To avoid any of this, entrust a certified and specialized in live animal transportation services company such as Cargolution. You will be supported by the expertise of a professional throughout the process and you will be confident as all documentation will be in order before departure to avoid any complications during transportation. If the seller/donor is suggesting a specific company be sure, it’s based in the same region and they will provide the service until your destination. Transportation fees for an animal travelling between Montreal to London is about $1,000, so be cautious if someone offers you a “friendly deal” at $200.

  1. Deposit and Money Transfer

Do not transfer any money until the previous steps are validated. If a seller/donor puts pressure on you and requests a money transfer before he answered all questions or even spoke to you by phone: doubt his intentions. No deposit is needed to meet the pet you would like to acquire, and keep in mind that a minimum length of 3 to 4 days is required to organize the transportation of an animal coming from abroad.

If, on the other hand, you are certain that you are dealing with a reliable person, complete the transaction through a secure and traceable means. Avoid transfer by MoneyGram and Western Union. Instead, opt for PayPal or Interac Transfer which includes a security question. You can then keep a history of the transaction and remain in control of the money transfer as long as the secret answer is not disclosed to the seller. Above all, never use prepaid credit cards to complete the transaction. If the money transfer is to cover transportation costs, pay directly to company in charge. You will get a receipt that will formalize the transaction and you will also receive a precise travel itinerary for your future best friend!


If you believe that you have come across a fraudulent ad or if you have been a victim of fraud, promptly report the seller/donor account to the hosting website before it vanishes. Also contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center online or by phone at this toll-free 1-888-495-8501 and file a formal complaint. Scammers can be very creative in their approach and there is no shame in being a victim of fraud. By acting quickly, you are taking concrete measures to get yourself out of a restrictive situation, and you will also prevent others from dealing with the same inconvenience.

One last doubt before the deal closure? Do not hesitate to contact our great team dedicated to live animal transportation at Cargolution. Our advice and expertise will help you to make an informed decision as you will learn more about the regulations related to your pet transportation. Get peace of mind, reach us now and find honest answers to all your questions.

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