With many Canadians spending more time at home these days, the urge to finally get that pet you’ve always wanted may be on your mind. Pets make excellent companions and there are even many health benefits that come along with getting one. Unfortunately, sometimes aspiring pet owners get taken advantage of by online scammers during their quest to find the perfect pet.  There are even ongoing scams related to pet relocation as well.  We would know firsthand, considering our name and logo have been used by scammers in the past to trick people into thinking they’re a legitimate pet relocation company.

With travel restrictions loosening, it’s possible that you may come across ads offering to ship free or discounted pets from across the country or world. If you’re considering taking up one of these offers, we highly urge you to think again.

Recently, we’ve been seeing news stories about aspiring pet owners falling prey to online scammers once again. With that in mind, we’d like to share with you some ways to recognize a scam for both purchasing and/or relocating a pet.

  1. They limit communication and payment methods

If the person or company you are in contact with limits communication to email or text, you may want to consider going elsewhere. A legitimate animal shelter, foster agency, or pet relocation company would be happy to communicate with you via phone or video, or meet in-person.  When communicating via email, ensure the email address being used by the person is from a legitimate company.  Oftentimes, scammers will use slightly-altered versions of email addresses from legitimate companies to give the illusion that they’re the real company.  We also recommend being cautious of any seller or company who uses COVID-19 as an excuse not to meet in-person. While it’s a legitimate concern, there are still ways to safely meet in-person that respect public health guidelines.

Additionally, be wary of online sellers and companies who request a deposit or full payment via e-transfers or other unsecure methods of payment. The safest way to purchase anything online, let alone a pet, is with a credit card or PayPal.

  1. They offer a discounted price

It’s natural to want to find the best offer for something, but when it comes to paying for a pet or  pet relocation company, be mindful of discounts and offers of free shipment.  We highly recommend researching the average price for certain animals and services.  If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.  If someone is seeking to rehome a pet and offers reasons to justify the low price such as “I can’t provide enough attention due to work hours” or “My new apartment doesn’t accept pets”, let that be another red flag.  While these are often common reasons for rehoming a pet, it’s important to remember that you have no reason to trust a complete stranger over the Internet, especially if they’re requesting a deposit virtually.

  1. They’re not a recognized company or organization

Obviously, the safest way to bring home your new pet is through a recognized pet relocation company, animal shelter, or breeder.  Unfortunately, classified sites such as Kijiji and Craigslist offer the perfect opportunity for scammers to reach naive, aspiring pet owners.  While we don’t recommend purchasing a pet this way, if you do, be sure to check for online reviews, ask for referrals, and even request to speak with the licensed veterinarian directly involved with the pet’s shot-schedule and request proof of health records and screenings.  However, be aware that even health records can be plagiarized.

Bringing a pet into your life can be one of the most joyful experiences, but it could also result in financial and emotional damage if you fall victim to an online scammer.  Instead, consider adopting an animal from your local animal shelter and provide them with a second opportunity at life!  If you’re relocating a pet, be sure to use the IPATA website to locate a legitimate pet relocation company, or contact us to request a quote.  For an official list of recently reported pet scams, check out this list.