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September Spotlight scam:  Pandemic Pets.

Pets were purchased and adopted at record levels during the pandemic to calm anxiety and help with isolation.  Swindlers are now using this information to perpetuate a scam, gain your trust and ultimately your money.  Criminals take advantage of your emotions by posting a picture of a pet, stating the pet has been returned or given up.  Fraudsters post fake information, pictures with a cute name or pretend to be legitimate breeders.  Some fraudsters have gone so far as to steal the identity of legitimate breeders to bolster their con. According to AARP, scammers create fake listings on social media or bogus websites as well as legitimate sites such as Craigslist or Facebook.  They will tell you a very sad compelling story along with adorable pictures.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) notes 4 red flags to look for:

  1. No phone calls, scammers prefer to communicate by email or in texts. Reputable breeder will communicate by phone, video or in person.
  2. Fake or stock photos are often used in emails or texts to gain attention. You can search to see if the picture was taken from an ad or do a reverse image search on
  3. Suspicious payment methods such as gift cards, Venmo, money wire or cryptocurrency.
  4. Too good to be true… it is! Pets offered at a deep discount, most likely a fraudster.

If you have been tricked into purchasing a nonexistent pet or feel you have been swindled, please contact one of the following:

  • Federal Trade Commission (online or at 877-382-4357).
  • FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) if the scam occurred online.
  • BBB Scam Tracker.
  • com, an online watchdog that catalogs and reports on pet-related fraud.

If you wish to speak with an Elder Rights Specialist about this or any scam, please feel free to call 515-255-1310 or email