Emotions can be manipulated, and every scammer knows it.
Usually, they go for fear. Sometimes, they try greed. But pet adoption scams target a different set of feelings: love for animals, sympathy, and the instinct to want to take care of something.
These scams tend to follow the same pattern: put a listing on the internet for a puppy that needs a home, convince everyone who answers the listing to wire money (repeatedly if they can), disappear.
(For whatever reason, these scams usually involve puppies.)
The short version of avoiding these scams is this: only adopt locally. If you can’t see the animal in person, and meet its current caretaker in person, don’t do it.
Getting into the details a bit more, these fraudulent ads will usually be posted on classifieds websites or social networks. Sometimes they entice victims with a too-good-to-be-true price (a couple hundred dollars for a purebred), or after a few emails, tell the victim they need only pay for the dog to be transported on an airplane.
In any case, payment will be requested either by wire (Western Union) or by prepaid gift card, where the victim purchases the card and then relays the numbers to the scammer.
In some cases, it ends there. In others, the scammer will create new complications that need to be paid for in advance; the puppy needs shots before traveling, they need to purchase an expensive crate, there is a third-party courier involved, etc. They’ll say anything to get the victim to continue sending money until the point when the scammer disappears entirely.
Not all online pet adoption listings are fraudulent, but stick to local listings only, or contact a local organization that helps find homes for pets. Any stranger asking you to wire money or purchase prepaid gift cards is trying to take your money. There are plenty of people looking for pets everywhere—there is no reason a dog would need to be flown thousands of miles to find a home.