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BBB: Pet owners should beware the scam of ‘pet flipping’

  • Special to The Eagle
  • Published Friday, Sep. 27, 2013, at 7:55 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, Sep. 27, 2013, at 8:53 p.m.

Pet-flipping is reportedly a growing scam around the country.

The term may sound slightly humorous, but the practice it describes is unethical and devastating to the families affected. Those who engage in it are either stealing or falsely claiming ownership of pets, usually dogs, and reselling them to make a profit.

Pet owners should familiarize themselves with these scammers’ tactics and take appropriate measures to protect your family’s pets from this unscrupulous practice.

How they get our pets

Purebred dogs, especially of highly popular breeds, are often targeted for the scam.

Sometimes they are simply taken from owners’ yards. More often the perpetrator will answer a Craigslist ad that has been placed by someone who has found a lost dog. There have also been cases reported where they have responded to neighborhood flyers posted by someone who has found a dog and seeks to locate its owner.

Situations like this are doubly tragic because the finder of the dog is simply trying to do a good deed. Yet if they turn it over to a flipper they may be adding an obstacle to the real owner’s frantic search for their pet.

Once they have taken possession, the scammer will then run an ad, again often on Craigslist, to sell the dog. Their stories can sound very convincing.

They may claim to be moving to an apartment that doesn’t allow pets, or to be moving abroad. The fact that they can be asking high prices for the dog is evidence that their motivation is to make money, not find a good home for a treasured pet.

Protecting your pet

There are several practices that can be followed to protect your pet from pet-flipping scammers:

• Don’t leave pets unattended. Thieves have been known to climb or open fences to get to a desirable breed for flipping.

• Have your pets spayed or neutered. Some pet-flippers are trying to acquire animals for breeding purposes, hoping to sell litters for large sums of money. A neutered animal is obviously undesirable by these scammers.

• Microchip pets. The chip itself is no larger than a grain of rice and is inserted just below the skin. Veterinary clinics and animal shelters use a scanner to reveal the number that can be looked up for contact information. But remember that it is only useful if the number has been registered. If you relocate, have the new address and contact information listed with the registry.

• Be sure your pet has an ID tag on it at all times. Check it for legibility if it has been on your pet for a long time.

Buying a pet

To avoid involvement with pet thieves and scammers make use of these tips:

• Request photos of the owner and pet together before you actually meet with them.

• Visit the seller with the pet and observe how they interact.

• Find out whether the pet is spayed or neutered and check veterinary records to verify.

• Ask to see paperwork such as kennel club registration and vet bills.

• Have the pet examined and scanned by a veterinarian before making the purchase.

• Get an official bill of sale from the seller.

If your pet has been lost or stolen, it’s advisable to check local pet ads. If you find your pet is the victim of a pet-flipper, contact the police.

For many of us, our pets are members of the family. Precautions should be taken for their protection and your peace of mind.

Denise Groene is state director of the Better Business Bureau of Kansas. Reach the BBB at 800-856-2417 or www.kansasplains.bbb.org.

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