Consumers aren't the only victims of identity theft. Cyber thieves steal business identities and wreck solid reputations. They hide behind roaming Internet addresses, fake street addresses and U.S. phone numbers forwarded overseas. Air Animal Pet Movers, a recent victim of an Internet imposter, warns customers that Internet thieves copy legitimate websites and lure people into purchasing puppies, kittens and other pets.
"These people are Internet imposters and imitators. They steal business identities and misrepresent themselves as Air Animal and other legitimate pet transporters. There is only one Air Animal Pet Movers. We are a Tampa, Florida-based pet moving service for relocating family pets. Our registered website is airanimal.com. Our only other office is in Orlando, Fla.," said Dr. Walter Woolf, veterinarian founder of Air Animal.
Air Animal is an IATA air cargo agency which moves pets for relocating families across the U.S. and around the world. Air Animal does not do business with people selling animals.
"These cyber criminals steal the identities of reputable pet shippers to appeal to your soft side and steal your money. They want you to use Western Union, Money Gram or send gift cards to pay for this fictional pet. After money is sent, you can't get it back," Woolf said. "To buy a pet, talk with the actual breeder. Get to know them. Visit with the local breeder. Ask questions. Ask for a minimum of three satisfied customer phone numbers and call them. A cyber pet seller will never share the name of the breeder or a telephone contact number."
The American Kennel Club hosts an online source for reputable AKC-registered breeders at marketplace.akc.org.
There are ways pet lovers can effectively fight back. If you are the victim of a scam, contact any of the following agencies to identify the validity of the pet seller. There are no free puppies or free lunches. If you are a victim of an Internet imposter, report it.
Best bets buy a puppy or kitten through a breeder, shop local first. Take your time. Thoroughly check their references and reviews. Avoid Internet come-ons and scams.