Senior Scams – Pet Scams

Dr. Sherry McCoy PhD

is a freelance writer & actor for the Stop Senior Scams Acting Program (SSSAP) in Los Angeles.  Follow SSSAP on Facebook .  For more info re: SSSAP, contact Adrienne Omansky at  Questions for the writer should be directed to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or

“Beware of Pet Scams and Animal Shelter Scams”

Dr. Sherry McCoy PhD, Stop Senior Scams Acting Program*


It’s March 2018 and spring is just around the corner. A lot of people think of getting a new pet when springtime comes along. If you’re one of those people, there are some things you should be aware of. Scammers are out in full force when it comes to pet scams! Seniors in particular can be vulnerable to pet scams if they have suffered the loss of a loved one and are looking for a companion. Here are some tips to help you navigate finding a pet and avoid getting taken in by a scammer.

According to AARP (, a lot of pet scams take place over the internet via social media such as Facebook or Craigslist or what appears to be the website of a supposedly reputable breeder. Example — A scammer posts a pic of an adorable puppy that is available for an unbelievably low price. There’s usually a heart-breaking background story about why the cute puppy needs a new home ASAP. The reality, unfortunately, is that there is no puppy at all. The dog picture has been hijacked from a legitimate website. The background story of the pet is completely fabricated. Once you make contact with the seller (scammer), usually through emails, there will be one hurdle after another – such as payment of up front adoption fees, shipping costs, etc. – that must be paid for via wire transfer or prepaid debit cards (no credit cards). Then, after those fees are paid, there will be multiple delays — such as insurance costs, specialized veterinary care, quarantine costs, etc., ad nauseam. You get the picture. It’s a scam! Meanwhile, you’ve just been taken on a very expensive emotional rollercoaster ride.

Per AARP ( “Pet scammers nearly always claim to be far away (and actually are, usually in Nigeria or another foreign hotbed for fraudsters) and say they need to ship the supposed critter. Yet reputable breeders and many rescue shelters typically don’t sell or ship dogs to people they haven’t met or vetted.” If you are serious about getting a new pet, why not look into pets that are available locally, rather than hundred or even thousands of miles away? Wouldn’t you prefer to meet the breeder face to face? Wouldn’t it be better to see the puppy in real life rather than look at photos? Use the internet wisely to contact local breeders, animal shelters, etc., when looking for a pet. Be suspicious if the pet seller insists on email contact only. If there is no phone contact number and/or the seller doesn’t want in-person contact, it’s likely a scam. Email makes it easy for scammers to remain anonymous.

Unlike pet scammers, legitimate breeders and shelters will not demand payment via wire transfer or prepaid debit cards. So, if a seller says no credit cards and payment must be via wire transfer or prepaid debit card, it’s a sure sign you’re involved with a scammer. Also, “don’t trust any checks you may receive (say, a so-called advance for third-party charges) with instructions to deposit it and forward a portion back to their “agent.” These checks are counterfeit, and your bank will hold you responsible for money forwarded or drawn from their deposit.” (

SSSAP is now working in collaboration with the Los Angeles DA’s office. A short video about Animal Shelter Scams ( created by the Video Dept. of the LADA’ office offers quite useful info. If you see poster or an ad on social media saying that a pet will be killed soon if donations aren’t made, do your homework. Tip #1 – Verify that the organization or individual soliciting funds is a legit 501(c)3 charitable organization. Tip #2 – Double check to make sure the animal really exists, where it’s housed, and the true extent of its needs. Tip #3 – Ask shelter agency what help has already been provided to the animal and whether it’s really at risk of being put to sleep. For additional info, please watch the video.

If you feel you have been the target or victim of a scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at 877-382-4357 or And then — Pass It On! If you have questions about Medicare fraud / abuse, or believe you have been the victim of Medicare fraud contact the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP*) at 1-855-613-7080. Remember: You may be a target, but you don’t have to be a victim!

*Dr. Sherry McCoy PhD is a freelance writer & actor for the Stop Senior Scams ℠ Acting Program (SSSAP) in Los Angeles. Follow SSSAP on Facebook at For more info re: SSSAP, contact Adrienne Omansky at Questions for the writer should be directed to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or

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