The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is urging consumers to use caution when purchasing a new pet online, after receiving multiple reports of scammers stealing money from unsuspecting purchasers.
Scammers post pictures online of what appear to be legitimate puppies or kittens for sale. They may even seem to be in the buyer’s local area. Once contacted, the seller claims to have just sold their last animal and instead offers information about a second seller further away who may be able to help. This tactic prevents buyers from meeting the animal in person before purchasing.
When buyers reach out to the second seller and agree to purchase an animal, that seller will require payment using an untraceable and non-refundable method, like a money transfer app. After the initial payment, the scammer may claim to need more money for transport fees, licenses, or permits. By the time the buyer becomes suspicious and demands a refund, the seller disappears without ever delivering the animal they advertised.
“Wisconsin consumers have lost thousands of dollars to these scams in recent months,” reports Lara Sutherlin, Administrator, Division of Trade and Consumer Protection. “We urge people to use caution when making purchases from online marketplaces and to contact the Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 422-7128 if they have been a victim of a scam.”