If you're not sure if it's a scam, first check if it's on the Scam List : https://www.petsplace.co.za/scam-list.php. This list is updated daily with info about fake websites & scammers. Do bookmark the page. If it's not on the list, Google the phone number to see what other deals the phone has been used for. Use the same format that the seller uses - eg spaces or dashes. Watch out for anything odd about the number - they may use letters of the alphabet instead of numbers eg o instead of 0. Or different fonts. eg 0880123456
If it's not on the scam-list but you suspect it's a scam, don't let the scammer know you are suspicious, or she'll stop answering your calls. Keep your tone friendly. Play along & get as much info as poss, eg bank account, cell, full name, etc.
Here are some red flags to look for:
If buying puppies or kittens on the internet, your identity may be stolen. Scammers use contact forms that soon have all your personal details. They can open accounts in your name. Feel free to make a few misteaks when giving them your personal inflamation. You can correct it later once you've video-called. NEVER send copies of your ID over the internet. You do NOT need to give your ID number in order to buy a dog. You do NOT have to give all your personal details when enquiring about the pups, kittens, parrots, or whatever.
If a breeder has puppies or kittens, do a video call. Arrange a good time see the puppies & parents. Pick the liveliest, healthiest one. See if the parents are in good condition. Be pleasant, but be persistent that you see the puppies before you pay! A scammer will make an excuse and refuse to let you see the pups on real time video. Don't buy something you haven't even seen a video of, and don't make arrangements or dates for transport. You have a right to see what you are buying.
If the suspect gives you a number to call for a reference from someone who bought a puppy - video call the referee too, and ask to see the puppy. Listen to the voice, which might be the scammer herself using a different name.
The breeders on this website (petsplace.co.za) are NOT scams. They are screened by me.
But if you intend to visit other websites, you may come across pet scams, and parrot scams so the first precaution you can take is to write down or bookmark the websites you are visiting, and the date. Tomorrow you will have forgotten where you saw the ad. If you were adopting a human baby, you would make sure you knew the name of the Adoption Agency in case it's a shady fly-by-night.
Often scam sites have no functioning cell or email That's a red flag! So you fill up a contact form and someone contacts you by email or whatsapp. You may have to wait till the next day to be contacted. You don't know where the email came from if you visited several sites. So ask what website the person is from. (Check your browsing history to see whether you visited it!) The name & cell number on the email or whatsapp may not be the same as on the website. They will say it's an agent or employee of their "business."
Here are some clues to look for if you think it might be a scam.
Too many breeds to be true
They have lots of breeds available, but they couldn't all have had puppies same day. It's not a crime to have a lot of dogs, but it's wrong to tell lies about them all having puppies same age. The female dogs would have to have conceived on the same day. Not possible!
The "Contact" page may give you a red flag if you find only a form to fill up, and you cannot speak to the breeder. Always deal with the breeder direct - not an agent who is claiming to procure a puppy from a secret location, like Fairyland.
Type the cell number in Google. No cell? Very suspicious! It's nearly always a scam if there is no cell. When you are typing the cell in Google, copy spaces, brackets, and dashes exactly as the scammer has it. It's better to talk to the seller than to send her all your personal details in a form. You need to add the cell numbers to your contacts because if there is a health guarantee, you must phone within 48 hours if you get a sick pet.
If there is no email on the website, or email is not clickable - that is a red flag. You are being forced to use the contact form. If they really had all those puppies at the sell-by date, they'd be desperate to get rid of them & they'd make themselves as contactable as poss.
com or coza?
A .co.za website is more likely to be South African than a .com. Scammers often say, "We are in South Africa," when they are lying. There are exceptions and some SA breeders register .coms, but most use .co.za
The breeder is the person who owns the dog or cat who had the babies. If you can't contact the breeder direct, something is wrong. Good breeders only sell to approved homes and they wouldn't give a litter to a business to sell. They want to know where their puppies are going. You need to know the full name. Good breeders give support to their customers for the rest of the dog's life. You need to be able to contact them for advice over any health issues in years to come.
If it's a scam, the person you are dealing with is not a breeder, but is pretending to be an agent Let's call her a suspect. Scammers often use women's names as women are believed to be more trustworthy than men. So we'll say, "she." Here are some things to find out:
What is the suspect's address?
Before you can ask where the suspect is, she has already found out where YOU are if you filled up a form. She then invents an address in a town far away from you in case you come to her house and see that she has no dogs. Scammers can easily copy a name and address from the internet. Ask if a friend can drop by, or if you can send a transport company. Of course, if you have already paid, they won't stop you travelling to this false address. You can also ask for a PIN location. Google any address they give you before setting out to find the place.
Does the suspect have an accent?
Most of the engagements should be in writing so you have a record of what was agreed eg price & cost of transport. Take screenshots quick before they delete their chats! But don't do business by forms, emails, and WhatsApp text only. Phone! Be suspicious if the suspect is always out and you have to speak to someone else. Does it sound like the suspect is using a voice-over app, or disguising her voice? Red flag! Is the suspect English, Afrikaans, African, or other? Is she a man? A video call will tell. She may sound sweet and helpful, but could she be window-dressing for a scam syndicate? Take note of the voice in case the scammer pretends to be a vet or transport company. They can change their name & cell, but not their voice.
What does the suspect look like?
You can chat face to face by video in real time. Watch the puppies' parents. Is the father handsome? Your pup will grow up to be a dog like him. You need to see the parents! If the suspect wants money NOW, she must show you the puppies NOW, before you pay a cent. Check if the environment is clean and the dogs seem well cared for. Once you have done the video call & are entirely satisfied that it's a genuine breeder, you can proceed. Many genuine breeders ask for a deposit to book a puppy. This is a good way to allocate pups to serious buyers and sift out the time-wasters. Scammers may also ask a deposit, or full payment, so the onus is on you to be careful.
Those photos of sweet puppies melt your heart! But they may be PhotoShopped. Or they may have got them from another website. Do get a new photo for your baby's photo album. You'll be surprised how quickly puppies grow! Even one day makes a difference. Get a pic of the breeder holding the pup.
If they DO show you the litter in a live video call, then it's probably not a scam at all! It's delightful to see a whole litter at play while the breeder points out the bossy one, and the shy one. You can't tell by a photo. Only a video call can tell.
Lies about a vet
If you think it's a scam and they say the puppy has been inoculated, ask the name and address of the vet, and date of inoculations. Don't ask for the vet's number or you'll be given a scammer's number. Look up the number. You could phone the vet and ask if he did inoculate the litter. The scammer may mention an airport vet. Vets don't have a practice at an airport.
The sick puppy scam
Scammers may say the puppy is ill and they have no money for the vet. Don't fall for it! The breeder must pay the vet and only sell healthy puppies. They are playing on your emotions.
Border fees scam
Sometimes the puppy is free, or cheap, and you just have to pay for transport. The seller says he has had to go to another country on business and had to take the puppy with him as it's too young to leave. Lies! The transport costs start rising! Scammers may claim the puppy is detained at the border. They need clearance money. Ignore it.
Ask if the puppy is registered. If she says, "Yes," ask WITH WHO is it registered? If it's registered with ABYZ, look up those initials. What do they stand for? You can phone the registry and ask if a litter has been registered by that breeder recently. The breeder's name should be on the mother's certificate.
If the seller says the puppy is NOT registered, then you shouldn't have to pay thousands of Rands for it. There is no proof that the dog is pure-bred.
Fake testimonials & references
Scamsters can pretend to be a satisfied customer.
Scammers use stolen bank cards, stolen cell phones. They steal copies of ID books, and call themselves by the name on the ID book. They change their name frequently. Google their bank a/c to see if it appears in other ads. When adding a beneficiary on internet banking, check the name of the account holder against the account number. If it's not in the scammer's name she may say that the a/c is in her partner or accountant's name. Take note of this red flag! Be suspicious if the a/c is in someone else's name. It may be a fraud. If you decide to pay, take note of the time and date of payment so the bank can trace it fast.
When the suspect sees that you are suspicious, she may protest that they are a honest, "God-fearing" family. They may send a copy of their ID without your asking for it, which is a scammers' ploy to fool you. The ID is stolen. It's usually a woman's ID (of course - that's where the scammer got her name). Now there is no doubt that it's a scam. This is a sure sign - a real give-away.
A second crime they may commit is to stick a false photo over the photo in the ID book. Now they are guilty on two counts - 1. Identity theft. 2. Falsifying an official document.
Genuine breeders know that one NEVER sends a photo of one's ID over the internet. One MIGHT be asked for an ID number if travel documents are involved, but not a photo of the ID. Quickly stop any payment you made to give yourself time to think. Do NOT select "Immediate Payment." Try to make your payment future-dated to give yourself time to cancel it. If possible, transfer the money from a bank that is different from the suspect's as this can take a few days. If the scammer starts arguing saying you MUST pay at once, they have shown themselves to be scammers. Genuine breeders do not resort to bullying. Block their calls!
If you've already paid, the scammer may play for time to make sure the money is in his account, and that he can withdraw it and money-launder it. He doesn't want you going to the police just yet so he will tell you there is a problem with transport, or something. If he changes the delivery date, STOP PAYMENT and see what happens. Speed is essential to stop payment. You must act fast!
Scam Transport Companies
Scammers invent names of pet transport companies and may ask you to pay the scam "Transport Company" direct. The "company" might be the scammer herself using a different name.
She may ask you for a large sum for an air-conditioned, electronic, crate, more vaccine, a Legal Control Permit, or something, which she says she will refund after delivery. Hmmm.... Really? There is no such requirement. They just want your bank details. STOP PAYMENT!
If you send your banking details, don't send your PIN too! She will empty your account. NEVER send copies of your ID and driving licence over the internet. They will use it to open accounts in your name.
When you realise you've been scammed, you feel stupid. But you're not stupid. You are a normal, trusting, animal-lover. You fear the police will be too busy to be interested, but they will take a statement at the police station. It's fraud. It's organised crime. Get a case number. Every little bit of info such as bank accounts & screenshots of conversations will help police build up a case. The criminal may get caught for another offence. It will help other people to avoid scams if you talk about your experience and share it on social media.
Where to report a dog or cat scam (or any scam!)
Cell numbers used in scams. Check the list before you call!
Scam websites (searchable) You can also search for the seller's name.
You can post screenshots of any scam conversations this facebook page (puppies, parrots, kittens, chickens, whatever!) https://www.facebook.com/groups/report.puppy.scms.south.africa
The more people we can warn, the better!