Pet Flipping: Old Trick, New Scam

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August 22, 2013
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In an article released by Business Week, there is a new scam on the rise which has roots in old tricks. It’s called “pet flipping” and involves selling pets that are either stolen or claimed to be the person’s personal pet on internet sites like Craigslist.

Typical scenario may be something like this:

Someone posts finding a pet in their neighborhood on Craigslist. The scam artist calls or emails and claims that the pet is his/hers. Once the pet is in the scam artist’s possession then a new post may go online with a request to find a new home for the pet. Something like, “moving cannot take my pure bred mini poodle” along with information about the dog that is completely inaccurate and false and an adoption fee or sale price. Someone looking to buy a pet or adopt one may see this ad and respond. Then the scammer makes a profit and does it again. This is an extension of dog napping, where someone would steal a dog that was tied to a pole or in a car and then sell it.

If you are looking to get a new pet, the best route is to adopt and head to your local shelters and rescue groups to find a new friend. A good rescue group will have a well detailed questionnaire and some history on the pet such as former owner information, behavior traits, and veterinarian. This means you could always call the vet and validate that the dog, in fact, went there. Local animal shelters will have some basic information such as vaccine history and reason for surrender.

If you do reply to an ad on the internet from an owner, arm yourself and be alert. Ask questions, question everything – from the vet used, to age of the pet, dog park they go to, to food, to routines. Then if you want to double check, call the vet and explain why you are calling and ask if they can validate that the pet and owner are clients. They may not be able to tell you more than that and that is due to their confidentiality and security that they promise to their clients. Also, ask to meet the pet and assess how it responds and reacts to the owner. Does the cat or dog seem to be bonded? Does the environment seem to be one that the pet has made a home in (toys, cat posts, dog bowls, etc)?

For those of us who own pets, micro-chipping can help discourage thieves and track our pets. Keep the information registered with the microchip company up to date and always make sure your pet has tags on the collar. When you go out to run errands think about leaving your pup home instead of tying it outside the store or leaving it in the car for a few minutes. Besides, being left in the car is not fun for pets, temperatures change in cars rapidly and cold days can make it a freezer and hot days make it an oven in a snap. Spay and neuter your pet to also discourage thieves from taking it to illegally breed it for profit.

It’s sad to think we have to execute such caution when looking to add some more love to our lives with a pet but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Image from Gardner Kansas Government Website

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