Thinking of getting a puppy for your children this holiday season? Just be careful. Beware of pet scams and review the tips below from the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA), the non-profit, worldwide trade association for professional pet shippers, before sending any money.

“For those families who have found an animal over the Internet, be cautious. I have seen hundreds of scams and advise families to educate themselves on how scammers operate so they won’t be their next victim,” says IPATA President Manuel Leunda. “Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Many scams begin with an advertisement – an adorable puppy or an exotic animal at half the cost.. The scammer’s only request payment for the inexpensive shipping fees, usually by Western Union or MoneyGram, before the animal can be shipped. But additional costs will soon follow – extra shipping costs, customs clearance fees, vaccinations and insurance. Once the money is sent, the person learns there is no animal.

Scammers are luring pet lovers out of thousands of dollars with photos of cute animals, heart-breaking stories and irresistible prices.  Sometimes it is difficult to determine if it is a scam, until it is too late.

Leunda continues, “Scammers can be located anywhere in the world, so don’t be reassured if the person who emails back says they are local. Often you will find out later in the process that the animal is located somewhere else and that’s why they need the extra fees. If you can, try to adopt an animal closer to home so you can meet the animal and the person you are doing business with.”

Here are 5 tips that can help you identify a possible pet scam:

  1. Always insist that the seller enter into a formal contract.The document should detail the method of transportation, timeframe, the airline of carriage, all associated costs, and copy of the health certificate.
  1. Check references.If the seller indicates that a specific company will handle the shipping, get complete details for the shipping company and then check them out! Use Google to research them and call them to confirm that they knowthe breeder.
  1. Check affiliations.In order to convey authenticity, scammers may claim to be a member of IPATA. If this is the case, simply look up their company name in the IPATA member directory (visit http://www.ipata.org  and click on “Find a Pet Shipper”). If they are not in the directory, they are not a member.
  2. No such thing as “refundable insurance”. Scammers will try to charge for “refundable insurance” in case the pet is lost or hurt during the trip overseas. As everyone knows, there are no refunds when it comes to insurance!
  3. Most importantly – Be wary of sending funds by wire. Scammers will say this is the most inexpensive and fastest way of doing business. Most reputable dealers will request that you wire transfer funds to their company bank account or will accept a credit card or PayPal payment.

For more information, please visit http://www.ipata.org/pet-scams/

About IPATA

The International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) is a non-profit, worldwide trade association for animal handlers, pet moving providers, kennel operators, veterinarians and others who are dedicated to the care and welfare of pets and animals during transport. The organization was founded in 1979. It began with six founding members and now has more than 350 members in over 80 countries. IPATA serves its members, the pet transport industry, and the public at large. For more information, or to find a professional pet shipper, visit www.ipata.org.