Attorney General Ford Warns Against Puppy and Other Pet-Selling Scams During COVID-19

May 21, 2020

Carson City, NV - Today, Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford wants Nevadans to be cautious when shopping for a new puppy or pet online. During the State of Emergency, more people have turned to online shopping to find their next best friend or family member. However, scammers are taking advantage of buyers by falsely advertising and posting pets for sale.

"Many households are using this time at home to welcome a new pet into their family," said AG Ford. "However, some Nevadans are left heartbroken when they're tricked into buying a pet that doesn't exist."

In many instances, potential buyers respond to an online post offering an animal for sale. The scammers then ask for payment upfront, make excuses why the buyer can't see the animal in person, and, ultimately fail to complete the agreement to sell because the pet doesn't exist. Sometimes, the fake seller may demand the buyer pay for things such as climate-controlled crates, insurance or (non-existent) COVID-19 vaccines for the animal.

In order to avoid pet-selling scams, Nevadans are encouraged to:

  • Ask to see the pet in-person. If you are unable to do so, request a video conference with the seller so you can see the pet. Conduct an image search of any pictures of the pet. If the picture appears on multiple websites, it may not be a picture of an animal within the possession of the seller.
  • Pay with a credit card. Avoid paying by wire transfer, payment apps or gift cards when paying anyone you do not know. While the scammer may store your credit card information, charges to credit cards are easily disputed. Once money is wired or placed on a gift card, you will have no means to get a refund.
  • Do your research. Research the average price for the breed of pet you are buying. If a purebred dog is being advertised for free or at a reduced price, it could be a sign of a scam. Also research the seller online to find out if there are any complaints about the breeder or business.
  • Contact local animal shelters. Especially during the pandemic, Nevada shelters may be looking for foster homes for animals to relieve overcrowding.

If you believe you have been a victim of a scam, you may file a complaint with the Office of the Nevada Attorney General here or with the Federal Trade Commission here. You may also call our hotline toll free at (888) 434-9989.