BBB Scam Alert: Beware of Online Animal Adoption Scams Around the Holidays


If you’re in search of a new family pet, you’re not alone. The demand for animal adoptions tends to rise during the holiday season, but so does the prevalence of scams. Numerous scams exploit online animal adoption platforms, some of which may not even be legitimate. As consumers turn to the internet to find new pets, experts say a shocking 80% of sponsored pet advertisements may be fake. 

How the scam works:

Like many frauds, this one has adapted and evolved over the years. The early versions typically involved scammers posting a simple classified ad offering a free pet, with the owner explaining that he or she was being relocated to another country, or could no longer keep the animal for some other reason. But while there was no charge for the animal itself, the scammers insisted the potential buyer pay for transportation and other costs associated with getting the pets to their new owners. 

More recently, these frauds involve the sale of animals at low prices – usually well below the charges of actual breeders. Similarly, later requests ask for additional money for shipping costs and other expenses that supposedly go to third parties. 

How to avoid pet scams:

  • Do your research! Only purchase from a reputable dealer. Check BBB Business Profiles on for complaints and customer reviews before you make the purchase. 
  • Don’t buy a pet without seeing it in person. If that isn’t possible, request a live video call to view the animal, meet the breeder, and evaluate the facility.  
  • Conduct a reverse image search of the picture of the pet you are considering. If the same picture appears on multiple websites, it’s likely a fraud. You also can search for distinctive text from ads or testimonials, to see if the seller copied it from another website. 
  • Avoid wiring money, or using a cash app or gift card. These payment methods offer no way to get your money back if you are the victim of fraud.  
  • Do research to get a sense of a fair price for the breed you are considering. Think twice if someone advertises a purebred dog for free or at a deeply discounted price, it could be a fraudulent offer. 
  • Consider reaching out to a local animal shelter. Many shelters are looking for fosters to help relieve animal stress and reduce overcrowding at their facilities.  

If you think you have been scammed or have found a suspicious website, report it to: 

For more information

For more information on puppy scams, see BBB’s full report on puppy scams.  

If you’ve spotted a scam (whether or not you’ve lost money), report it to BBB Scam Tracker. Your report can help others avoid falling victim to scams. Find more information about scams and how to avoid them at