Online animal market: This is how you recognize fraudsters and dubious offers

There are frequent cases of fraud in classified ads or auction houses on the Internet. But not only concert tickets or valuables are tricked and cheated on – when it comes to living beings, fraudsters have no qualms.

But why is it so difficult to find out about fraudsters? One of the problems is that there are different forms of cheating.

Forms of scams for animal classified ads on the Internet

A common variant is, for example, classifieds where no animal is actually for sale: The animal is usually offered free of charge or at a bargain price. If it is a free offer – i.e. the animal is to be given away – the seller at least wants to have the flight costs reimbursed. Either way, payment in advance should be made (often via Western Union).


“As a rule, such advertisements come from abroad – often from Africa,” reports Dr. Andreas Jaster, employee at AniMall24 ‘s advertising market and responsible for quality control. “If the potential buyer actually pays, the scammers usually try to steal even more money by making up a maudlin story.”

For example, an email then states that the animal is in quarantine at an airport and should be euthanized if the follow-up costs are not covered. In fact – and an inquiry at the airport can confirm this – an animal never arrived.

This type of internet scam isn’t limited to just one species. Ads can also be found in the areas of puppies, kittens, horses, fish or birds:

The trade in sick animals

Another form of scam is the trade in sick animals. This is a frequently used scam, especially with puppies . Here sick puppies are sold at bargain prices. “The animals are usually imported cheaply from Eastern European countries,” says Jaster, who is responsible for checking several thousand advertisements per day. “The dog is often incurably ill with parvovirus, for example, and sometimes does not survive the first few days.”

In addition, there are high treatment costs for veterinarians. The animals are often given to the seller in public places – for example petrol stations or motorway service stations.

Serious breeders from abroad?

“Nonetheless, offers from abroad are not automatically dubious,” explains the employee of the classifieds market. Serious breeders breed in clubs and must therefore adhere to certain rules. After all, there are also recognized breeders and associations in other European countries who pay close attention to the  health  of the animals. This includes, for example, the FCI.

“It is only important to check the individual case, whether the seller provides correct information, it is proceeding with the right things and all the specified papers are correct,” says Jaster. You should make sure that the parent animals are there and that this can be proven by having an EU pet passport.

It is important that you can see that he has a stamp and the signature of a veterinarian and that the data on the dog are entered (chip number, name, breed, other characteristics such as coat color or special badges). The vet ultimately confirms the accuracy of this information. Of course, the puppies also need this ID in order to be able to enter Germany at all. You can also request the papers or the pedigree of the parent animals – they are available through the breeding in the club.

But how do you differentiate dubious from serious offers? Can you still trust the advertisements on the Internet?

Ads on the Internet = Fraud?

“Some animal welfare organizations generally warn against buying on the Internet or say that the amount of scam reports is 90 percent. It’s not just wrong, it’s nonsense, ”says Jaster. “In general, the buyer should always heed certain basic rules when making a purchase ( see page 2 ). But they are independent of whether the advertisement was placed on the Internet, in the newspaper or on the bulletin board in the supermarket. “

Because many animal shelters, reputable animal placement organizations or recognized breeders also offer their animals on the Internet. A breeder you know personally and in whom you have confidence is always the best and safest option – but this is not always possible.

Unfortunately, there is no portal completely without fraud reports either. It is therefore important as a buyer to take a closer look.

What does fraud and dubious mean?

Basically, one can speak of fraud or a dubious report if false facts are presented to the buyer – for example, false information about the dog’s place of birth or papers are given. Sometimes the buyer can tell for himself by reading the advertisements carefully.

If, for example, the same ad is placed four times with different locations, or a pug puppy with a pedigree , which normally costs 1,000 euros , should only cost a tenth of the price, this is an indication of fraud. Another indication: the image or the heading and the text do not match – or what do you think is offered here if a pug is advertised but the advert mentions a husky ?

These documents are important

In addition, targeted inquiries are important. If, for example, documents and papers are mentioned, the buyer should inquire in advance which documents are involved. Among other things, a dog should only be handed over with a valid EU pet passport or vaccination certificate and purchase contract – a pedigree is usually also included when buying a pedigree dog from breeders.

However, if the supposed “hobby breeding” cannot name a club and you are not allowed to visit the “cozy yard, where the dogs run around freely and are socialized”, you as a buyer should hear the warning bells ringing.

We have summarized these and other points for you again.

Detect online fraud ads

While there is no one set in stone method of identifying scam ads online, there are a number of clues that indicate dubious offers.

Price: Bargain prices or animals that are supposed to be given away can often be the result of fraud. First of all, you should get an overview of the current prices on the market – if the offer is significantly lower, you should always be careful. Because even if you should get an animal for this price – if, for example, the puppy causes immense follow-up costs in the form of visits to the vet or even survives only a few days, neither dog nor owner have won anything. Only the fraudster made sales.

Conclusion: The information should be conclusive. For example, if the landline number leads to a completely different sales location, you should be careful. Especially if the phone call suddenly goes abroad, although a German city was specified as the item location and / or the birthplace of the animal.

Language: Automatically translated texts that often contain gross grammatical errors can be an indication of fraud. Especially if the location is (allegedly) in the German-speaking area. A typical example of a translation accident: “Puppies ready for adoption”.

Same ads: Scammers often post the same ads in different locations. If you discover advertisements whose images and maybe even texts are identical, you should be careful with this provider.

Information: The more contact details (landline number, mobile phone number, name, address, website, etc.) the seller provides, the less likely it is that it is a dubious offer. Particular care should be taken if only the email address is known and the seller has recently signed up (if this information is available).

Please note, however, that this is only a guide. In individual cases there may also be advertisements that are serious, although the evidence initially suggests otherwise. Therefore, also note the general tips for buying animals and our checklist for buying puppies .

General tips for buying animals on the Internet

The sale – and the associated regulations – always depend on the respective species. Therefore, before buying an animal, find out what you need to look out for with the respective species ( vaccinations , chips, papers, etc.). However, there are a few tips that you should generally heed – regardless of the animal – in order to minimize the risk of fraud:

  • No advance payment
  • Take your time and avoid spontaneous purchases.
  • Never buy animals out of pity – you are only supporting dubious sellers.
  • As a rule, you should pick up the animal from the seller.
  • As a rule, you should make a sales contract .
  • Make sure that the documents are complete and correct.

The purchase contract is an important document that not only protects you from fraudsters, but also provides you with a good reference point for processing the pet purchase. To ensure that all the information is correct, we have drawn up a model contract that has been legally checked and thus contains all the important details for buying an animal. However, the use of our model contract does not replace legal advice.

“We remove dozens of dubious advertisements from our inventory every day”

In general, it can be said that there is probably no online animal market that is completely free of scam ads. However, some portals make an effort to sensitize and inform buyers and to delete obvious fraud ads.

“We remove dozens of dubious ads from our inventory every day,” says Jaster. “But even if we have a lot of honest salespeople, we cannot check every offer individually on site. With all due care, we can never guarantee the accuracy of the information given in the advertisements. That is why we rely on buyers to keep an eye out and not give fraud a chance. And if you notice a fraud report that we may have missed, please report it to us.

Try to pay with our safe deposit system

Unfortunately, however, there are some types of fraud in which even the greatest caution does not help, as Jaster knows: “For example, when a dog breeder mixes“ rooting table puppies ”with his“ real ”litter out of greed for profit. In this case, the buyers are powerless. Ultimately, the only thing that helps here is to report it to the police in order to prevent further fraud. “



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