Cybercrime with Whiskers: Protecting You from Online Scams

The internet provides a wealth of resources for pet owners, but lurking amidst the adorable kitten videos and endless catnip memes are nefarious actors with their sights set on unsuspecting pet lovers. From fake adoption scams to fraudulent pedigrees, pet-related online scams can not only cost you money but also put your furry friend’s well-being at risk. To navigate this digital jungle safely, here’s a crash course in protecting your cat from online crime:

1. Watch Out for Phony Adoption Sites:

Hand Petting Scared Cat in Cage
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

Heartwarming stories and irresistible photos of “abandoned” kittens may tug at your heartstrings, but be wary of websites advertising free or impossibly cheap purebred cats. Scammers often steal photos of real cats and concoct sob stories to lure buyers into sending money for nonexistent animals. Stick to reputable shelters and rescue organizations when considering feline adoption.

2. Beware of Pedigree Paperwork Scams:

a girl holding a some papers with a cat on her other hand
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

If you’re seeking a pedigreed feline friend, ensure the breeder presents official documentation through recognized registry bodies, like the International Cat Association (TICA) or the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA). Don’t fall for cheap offers of “pre-registered” or “guaranteed” pedigrees—verify the registration yourself through the official channels.

3. Steer Clear of “Pet Shipping” Schemes:

Bengal cat in a medical bandage on a dressing table in a veterinary clinic after sterilization
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

Scammers often entice buyers with offers to ship “rescued” animals from overseas. These animals may not exist, or they could be smuggled without proper health certificates and vaccinations, putting your cat and other family pets at risk of zoonotic diseases. Meet your feline companion in person before proceeding with the adoption.

4. Guard Your Wallet and Personal Information:

Depressed worker or student woman working with computer online scam online pet scam
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

Never send money via money transfer services like Western Union or MoneyGram, as these offer little to no recourse if the transaction is fraudulent. Stick to secure payment methods like PayPal with buyer protection or use escrow services recommended by reputable adoption organizations. Be cautious about sharing personal information like your address or phone number with unknown online sellers.

5. Research Breeders and Sellers Thoroughly:

British shorthair cat lying in front of the computer pretending to work
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

Before committing to an adoption, research the breeder or seller online. Look for reviews, check their website or social media presence for red flags, and contact reputable cat fancy organizations to verify their standing. Don’t hesitate to walk away if something feels off.

6. Stay Skeptical of “Urgent” Rescue Appeals:

Portrait of beautiful senior woman talking on phone
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

Scammers often exploit people’s compassion with urgent cries for help, requesting immediate financial aid for “abandoned” animals. Contact local shelters or animal welfare organizations directly to verify such claims before donating. Remember, reputable agencies rarely pressure for immediate financial assistance.

7. Educate Yourself on Red Flags:

Senior woman with vision problems using phone
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

Common red flags of pet scams include poor grammar and spelling in online ads, inconsistencies in photos or descriptions, overly insistent communication, and pressure to act quickly. Trust your gut if something seems fishy, and report suspicious activity to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

8. Secure Your Online Accounts:

woman working from home in a kitchen with a laptop - holding a bowl of soup or cereal
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

Protect your passwords and banking information by using strong passwords with a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Enable two-factor authentication whenever possible, and avoid using the same password for multiple accounts.

9. Talk to Your Kids About Online Safety:

a mother talking to his son
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

Educate children about the dangers of online scams and teach them to be cautious about clicking on unknown links or sharing personal information online. Encourage them to talk to you if they encounter anything suspicious.

10. Spread Awareness:

Girlfriends having coffee together at home with a cat
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

Share information about pet scams with your family, friends, and fellow cat lovers. The more informed we are, the better equipped we are to protect ourselves and our furry companions from cybercrime.

11. Leverage Trusted Resources:

Time at home. Pretty young dark-haired woman at home with her pet
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

Utilize resources like the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) or the Humane Society of the United States to access reliable information and advice on responsible pet ownership and protecting your pet from online scams.

12. Report and Act:

Young bearded businessman sits in home office at table and uses laptop, next sits gray cat. On table is smartphone, paper, books , cup of coffee. Working home concept during quarantine, close-up cat
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

If you fall victim to a pet scam, report it to the FTC and the BBB. Contact your bank or credit card company to report unauthorized transactions. Your actions can help raise awareness and prevent others from falling prey to similar scams.

By staying vigilant, informed, and acting responsibly, we can ensure that our online activities enhance our furry friend’s lives, not jeopardize their well-being. Remember, responsible online behavior is key to ensuring that our cats’ nine lives are spent purring with happiness, not navigating the pitfalls of cybercrime.

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Hi, I’m Jenny Dean, creator of Floppycats! Ever since my Aunt got the first Ragdoll cat in our family, I have loved the breed. Inspired by my childhood Ragdoll cat, Rags, I created Floppycats to connect, share and inspire other Ragdoll cat lovers around the world,

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