(BBB)–A Rockcastle County man and his animal-loving daughter who hoped to adopt a Bengal kitten drove to Georgia to pick it up, and instead were scammed out of $350 by a phony website offering the pets.
The Mt. Vernon man reported the issue to Better Business Bureau® serving Central & Kentucky via the BBB Scam Tracker that he and his 14-year-old daughter had been looking for a Bengal kitten to raise. He found a website called “deluxecattery.com” which featured many photos of exotic Bengal kittens. They all had names, with details about how the kittens were cared for. He called the phone number on the site, which had a Georgia area code, and was sent forms to fill out via email.
“The cats are expensive, but this website had them for a little bit less than other sites,” the victim said. “Then they wanted a $350 down payment, which seemed reasonable. They offered shipping for a little more, but I decided to drive down with my daughter to pick up the kitty.”
That’s when things went wrong. The man was asked to pay via Amazon gift cards. He purchased them and sent the pictures of the back of the cards and the receipt. The victim and his daughter drove several hours to an address near Atlanta given by the “Deluxe Cattery” where they could pick up their new pet. When they knocked on the door of the nicely kept home, the owner answered. He had no idea what the man and his daughter were talking about. The man and his heartbroken daughter headed home with no pet, wasted time and gas and $350 gone. Of course, his emails and calls to the website operators have gone unanswered.
BBB’s investigation of the “Deluxecattery.com” site showed several red flags:
- No physical address given. A phone number on the website has a Georgia area code, but the website claims to have a breeding establishment in Lewis Center, Ohio.
- The website claims “We are a responsible, loving, family owned cattery and a member of TICA (The International Cat Association).” A check of that website’s membership roster shows no listing of that cattery.
- BBB searched some of the testimonials from “Deluxecattery.com” on the Internet and found them, word-for-word, on other cattery sites from customer reviews. One even appeared on a site selling Maltese puppies. This is a common red flag of phony pet sites.
- The website looks professionally done; however there are a few places where odd syntax and grammar are used, which may indicate the website operates from outside the U.S. A search of the site name shows it is registered to a domain company that appears to be based in Panama.
BBB offers these tips for avoiding fraudulent online pet sellers:
- Don’t buy a pet without seeing it in person. Do an internet search of the picture of the pet you are considering and any customer testimonials. If either appears on multiple websites, you may be dealing with a fraud.
- Never pay a stranger by an untraceable methods, such as Western Union or reloadable cash cards (Amazon, iTunes, etc.) Once the scammer has the information from the cards, he can empty it and you cannot recover the value. Use a credit card in case you need to dispute charges.
- Research prices for the breed you are interested in adopting. If someone is advertising a purebred or exotic pet for free or at a deeply discounted price, it could be a scam.
- Verify any affiliation claims by the seller with the organization, such as The International Cat Association or other memberships and certifications. Do a search online of the breeder to see if any questionable articles appear.
Consumers may report scams to BBB Scam Tracker at www.bbb.org/scamtracker.