Scams are a tale as old as time. You travel to Barcelona and signs are posted to beware of pickpockets. In the 21st-century tech world we live in, scams abound. You purchased something online and it never came, or you signed up for some get-rich-quick scheme and guess what? You didn’t get rich. But what if you just bought a pet in another state or are transporting a pet cross-country? There are also fake pet shipping companies to be wary of.
There are numerous reasons why you would want to use a pet shipping company — maybe you live in California, but the price of that adorable Yorkie you saw on a website was much cheaper in Alabama than in your home state. Or you’re a breeder that’s made the decision to sell and transport puppies long-distance. Whatever the reason, you need to move a pet long-distance and a pet shipping company seems like the best solution for your pet transport needs.
This post provides advice on avoiding fake shipping companies and puppy scammers, how to protect yourself from them, and how to identify them — as well as what to do if you have been the victim of a pet scam.
How to Identify a Puppy Scammer
Puppy scammers are everywhere — in fact, their presence exploded in 2020 as the pandemic led to increased demand for new pets. There are thousands of scam sites online.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a button you can just press to weed them out. And although scammers are reported every day, they just keep popping up. How do you identify them?
Here’s a simple list to keep handy when you’re looking for a puppy online:
- The number one way to identify a fraudulent business is their insistence on using untraceable methods of receiving money like Western Union or MoneyGram. If they won’t accept PayPal or credit cards, look elsewhere.
- Their correspondence will not come from their website but from a private email source like Gmail or Hotmail. Legitimate places of business typically have professional email addresses.
- Their phone numbers to contact are also untraceable, untrustworthy or unavailable.
- They usually advertise their services in questionable places like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. Although these sites are legitimate, posting there is usually free, without the need to invest money on paid ads.
- Criminal breeders offer purebreds for a considerably lower price than legitimate businesses, only asking customers to pony up shipping charges.
- The prices of these fake shipping companies can be very low to make them attractive. Don’t fall for it!
- The most important thing: if it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a fraud!
How Do Fake Pet Shipping Companies Operate?
Fake shipping companies take several different approaches to committing fraud. Now that you know what to look for, let’s examine how they work.
Fake Pet Shipping Company Copy The Websites of Legitimate Businesses
Their websites can look like exact replicas of legitimate pet transport businesses. They want to look legit, so they steal things from real companies to “legitimize” themselves.
- They will make their logo similar to other companies.
- Their domain name is very similar to established pet companies.
- The company’s logo and branding can resemble well-established pet companies as a way to lure in potential customers.
Know Different Types of Pet Shipping Scams
There are different types of scams fake pet shipping companies attempt to pull:
- They may claim to ship your pet for a low price but once you make an upfront payment, they stop all communication. This is why it’s important to avoid upfront payment and if you do, use PayPal or another payment source that can be refunded.
- Other scammers will pick up your pet and begin the transport, but fail to take proper care of your pet. This can lead to the injury or death of your pet. Usually it’s worth it to pay a little extra for a reputable transporter.
- Even worse, there are scammers that pick up your pet and never deliver it. Usually, these fraudulent transporters sell your pet — an enormous and heartbreaking loss for you, the pet owner.
Requesting Additional Payments
During the transport process, they’ll continue to request payments that weren’t agreed upon. As we mentioned before, they’ll ask for an upfront payment. Then they’ll tack on more “fees” to finalize the delivery — for instance, a pet vaccination fee or a crate fee. This is a frequent way for scammers to con you out of even more money.
Unrealistically Low Pricing
This one is tricky because most people aren’t aware of the typical cost of pet transportation. Criminals hook gullible customers by making their costs considerably below market. This catches the eye of people that are looking for the lowest possible price instead of hiring a legitimate pet transportation company. If a transporter’s rate is significantly lower than any other competitors, it’s a red flag that they’re not operating legitimately.
How to Avoid Fake Pet Shipping Companies
Puppy scammers are all over the internet. All they want is to get you to part with your hard-earned money. Obviously the smart thing to do is to just avoid them. But how, you ask?
Research the pet shipping company online and read as many reviews as possible. Don’t rely on reviews from the transporter’s website — instead, check Google Business, Yelp, TrustPilot and the BBB. Driver profiles on CitizenShipper include reviews from previous customers.
Check for IPATA Membership
Ensure the pet shipping company is associated with a professional pet travel association. Check the International Pet Travel Association (IPATA) website to see if the business is a member. Because the organization is dedicated to the safe and humane transport of pets, you can trust their members are legitimate.
The IPATA website has loads of advice and tidbits about pet travel, puppy scammers, and anything related. ATA, Animal Transport Association, also has information you should peruse before transporting a pet.
Join Pet Transport Communities
Join online communities and ask questions about a particular pet shipping company. Users can provide sound advice or recommendations on which companies to use and which ones to avoid.
Avoid Money-Focused Businesses
When communicating with pet shipping companies, pay attention to their language and approach. If they’re very “money-oriented,” beware — it doesn’t mean they’re fake pet shipping companies, but it does demonstrate they’re not very concerned about your pet.
Scammers Leave Trails
More often than not, pet scammers leave trails of their scams for everyone to see. It’s important that you do diligent research.
Use a Marketplace
Use a marketplace like CitizenShipper to hire a pet transporter. While it’s possible to encounter a scammer, most marketplaces have built-in safeguards that make it easier to identify them.
- Every driver has a profile with reviews from previous transporters — choose a driver with high reviews even if it costs you a little more.
- An instant messaging system allows you to speak directly with the transporter — if the transporter is evasive, demands money up-front, or if there’s anything else troubling about their communication, they could be scammers.
- The bidding system allows you to compare transporters’ rates — flag unrealistically low quotes as fraudulent and avoid them.
How to Protect Yourself from Fake Pet Shipping Companies
Fake shipping companies and pet scammer sites pop up on the web all the time. Using the information above you should know what steps to take to identify and avoid them. It’s important to stay vigilant. To protect yourself from these fraudsters, follow these essential tips.
- Don’t disclose any personal information to these sites unless it’s a genuine breeder or legitimate company.
- Do not, under any circumstances, send any money through Western Union, MoneyGram, Facebook Marketplace, or a personal bank account.
- If you spot a scammer website, don’t hesitate to report it to IPATA and other sites that publish scammers online, like petscams.com.
- Lastly, you should always contact the authorities and relevant government websites if you spot a fake shipping company or puppy scammer. This will put the government on alert to shut them down quickly.
What To Do if You’re the Victim of a Pet Delivery Scam?
Let’s face it, even the most diligent consumer falls for scams from time to time. What can you do if it happens to you?
First off, don’t panic. This happens to more people than you think, and it’s important to act fast. Take deep breaths and follow these steps.
- Never divulge any more information to these fraudulent companies.
- Write down all the information about the scammer that you have. That includes an email address, the Western Union or MoneyGram name that your money was sent to, and any phone numbers or contact information of the fraudster.
- Report the pet delivery to the authorities, IPATA and other websites that post information about these fraudulent companies.
Here is a list of sites you can report fake shipping companies at:
- National Consumer’s League / Fraud.org
- United States Department of Justice
- Stop Fraud
- Consumer Fraud Reporting
- Scam Victims United
- Scam Warners
The Best Way to Have Your Pets Transported
There are various ways to transport your pet — including airplanes, trains and legitimate, professional pet shipping professionals. Although it can be more expensive, reputable companies give you peace of mind that your beloved pet will arrive safe and sound in your arms after the transport.
CitizenShipper is a groundbreaking alternative to traditional pet transportation. Instead of searching for transporters online and doing independent research, CitizenShipper makes the process much easier. Plus, we have thousands of reviews on TrustPilot, with an average rating of 4.7 out of 5.
Post a listing on the pet transportation marketplace and receive quotes within minutes! Once you’ve received quotes, you can read driver profiles and reviews from previous customers. Every transporter that uses the marketplace is vetted and passes stringent background checks.
You can discuss the details of your transport directly with the driver using our instant messaging system. This is a helpful tool in identifying legitimate transporters on the platform — if there’s something “off” about the driver or transport company, it will be clear just by asking a few questions.
Your beloved pet will be in good hands with our qualified drivers, who provide frequent updates and love animals as much as you do. Even better, because drivers compete for your business, we can save you up to 60-70% compared to traditional shipping companies. There are no hidden fees.
While a small percentage of scammers may slip through the cracks, the CitizenShipper customer service team is dedicated to eradicating them as soon as they appear. We take pet transport scams and eliminating fake pet shipping companies very seriously! After all, we’re helping you transport a member of your family.
Puppy scammers and fake pet shipping companies are all over the internet — but they can be avoided. The best way to steer clear of these nasty criminals is by doing lots of research.
- Reputable companies don’t require you to pay the entire transport costs up front.
- They don’t bombard you with hidden fees once the trip has begun.
- They’re always open and communicative.
Of course, if you spot a fake pet shipping company or puppy scammer, make sure you report it to the authorities, IPATA, and other websites that expose pet scams. It’ll make it that much easier for other pet owners to identify these fraudsters in the future.
CitizenShipper also provides added benefits for you, so you’re even more at ease — up to $1,000 Pet Protection guarantee and 24/7 TeleVet access through our partner FirstVet!
Use CitizenShipper to ensure your beloved pet arrives safe and sound. The drivers on our platform are pet lovers that understand what a pet means to your family. Post a free listing for pet transportation today and get free quotes from reliable, vetted transporters within minutes!
Patrick Macfarland has been a teacher, a candidate for public office, and a local tour guide. But now he dedicates his time writing full-time, currently at CitizenShipper and VeraContent.
There are such things as fake pet shipping companies? Thanks for giving the heads up. I would’ve never think of such thing. I am moving to NYC and I have a pet so now I know what to look for when hiring professional movers.