If you’ve been thinking about adding a pet to your family, now may be a good time. In addition to pets offering unconditional love, companionship, and amusement, studies have shown that the bond between people and their pets has health benefits. Regular walking or playing with pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels.

Finding a pet may be a little different during the pandemic. While many shelters, rescue leagues and breeders are closed for in-person visits, many are still posting photos and videos of available animals, and hosting online meet-and-greets. But like any major decision, it pays to do your homework — especially because scammers are trying to take advantage of the situation.

If you’re looking for a new pet, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Work with a reputable animal shelter or rescue league that is local. Most legitimate shelters and rescue leagues post their adoption fees online and they won’t ask you to pay additional unexpected fees. If you stick with a local organization, you may not have to pay until you pick up your new pet. The Humane Society of the United States can refer you to local shelters.
  • Do your homework when buying a pet. Research prices for the breed you’re interested in buying. If someone is advertising a purebred dog for free or at a deeply discounted price, that’s likely to be a scam. Get detailed information about the seller, including the person or company’s full name, phone number and postal address. Then research the seller online. See what other people are saying about their experiences. Are there complaints? Does the word “scam” pop up? The Humane Society also has tips for finding a reputable breeder.
  • Search online for the animal’s image. Scammers often use the same photos again and again. If the image of your cute pup or adorable kitten shows up on multiple sites, it’s a pretty good bet you’ve stumbled onto a scam.
  • Don’t pay with a gift card or wire money. A sure sign of a scam is someone who insists you pay by gift card or wire transfer. Gift cards and money transfers are similar to sending cash – once you send it, it is almost impossible to get it back. Instead, pay by credit card. That way, if there’s a problem, your card issuer may be able to help.

If you’ve spotted a pet adoption or sales scam, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint and your State Attorney General.

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