Beware of 4-Legged Financial Scam

A new online financial scam is hoping that your care for animals will lead you to be careless with your hard-earned savings.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, online thieves are posting advertisements for dogs and other pets who need loving homes. Many of the ads include sob stories that will make any animal-lover want to rescue a would-be furry friend. Once a customer agrees to pay for the pet, he or she will receive additional requests for common expenses such as vet bills, crating, shipping and inspection costs. There’s just one problem: The pet never comes home.

It’s a crafty scam. Typical tactics such as fake email requests for money to bogus investment opportunities have become relatively easy to spot. While it’s easy to delete a message that winds up in your spam folder, turning a blind eye to that four-legged creature in need can feel more difficult.

Still, no matter how much your heart tells you to transfer the funds from your savings or checking account to bring Patches back to your house, the FTC urges consumers to exercise caution.

If needy pets can pull on your heartstrings, here are a few tips to keep your money safe.

  • Avoid money transfer requests. Money transfers cannot be refunded. If someone asks you to send money via Western Union, MoneyGram or a similar service, you’re better off keeping those funds in your bank account.
  • Be your own private investigator. Ask for the seller’s name, address and phone number. Google is a powerful amateur PI tool. Search for the person’s name to see if any history of scams or complaints turn up in the results.
  • Track the image. The FTC recommends right clicking on the photo of the pet and selecting “copy image location,” “copy image address” or “properties.” Copy the link into your browser. If the image shows up in an older listing, it’s most likely a scam.
  • Go to the local animal shelter. According to The Humane Society of the United States, approximately 2.7 million pets in shelters go unadopted each year. If you really want to help a puppy or kitten in need, make an in-person visit to the shelter in your town