Animal lovers who fall for online pet scams lose hundreds or even thousands of dollars while trying to buy or relocate cats and dogs or exotic animals such as African parrots and fennec foxes, according to Bitdefender. The antivirus software provider recently blocked a wave of fraudulent web sites promising pet relocation and related services.
Fake sellers and shippers ask for advance money for flight insurance, health certificates and veterinarian taxes, which victims send via Western Union, Money Gram, GreenDot or MoneyPak.
One of the most recent pet scams promised shipping and travel services for dogs and cats within the US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Europe. The fraudulent company also called itself the leader in the horse relocation “industry.”
“While your pet is travelling, rest assured that your Pets Relocation professional will be keeping an eye on your pet’s travel,” the fraudulent website said. “In addition, Pets Relocation will provide you with the necessary information so, if you wish, you can also follow your pet’s travel route.”
For horse shipping, fraudsters asked for a deposit of at least a 90% of the cost and a 50% deposit for booking a shipment. Extra-charges can result from “veterinary bills while en-route” and even from a “difficult horse that takes more than 60 minutes to load.”
Bitdefender recommends users avoid buying, adopting or relocating pets online with a new website, as it is extremely risky. Online Threats technologies block such web sites with a “fraud alert” message.
In the last couple of years, pet scams have been constantly circulating with many variations. After losing money and personal data, victims may also be contacted by the same or another scammer pretending to be a lawyer or law enforcement officer who offers to get their money back.
Users should also be careful with UK global redirects or personal forwarding numbers that appear to be coming from the UK and begin with +44(0)70.
Thousands of victims were recently duped by a veteran fraudster who is back behind bars after coming up with a new scam that preyed on animal lovers. The scammer tricked victims into investing between $5,000 and $50,000 in franchises for a business called “Return-A-Pet”. They were bilked out of a total of half a million dollars. The fraudster now faces up to 40 years in prison, according to KTIV.
Bitdefender detailed the technical differences between phishing and fraud in a paper about the make-believe industry, published in the Virus Bulletin.