I am not implying that cat breeders are scammers. I am saying that there are fictional cat breeders out there who are scammers. The internet is a particularly suitable area of operation in which to scam people. I am referring to online businesses. It seems there are at least two types of scam. I am sure there are more.
Scammers usually attract people’s attention by selling highly desirable cats such as purebred F1-F3 Savannah cats. These are rare, top end, glamour cats for the rich really. Or even high quality cats that are not wild cat hybrids such as Persians. They will probably use a great picture that is perhaps stolen from a genuine breeder’s website.
The Shipping Scam
In this one the seller of the cat sets up the deal with the customer over the internet. Notably the customer does not visit the breeder. The seller and buyer are a considerable distance from each other and the cat has to be shipped by air. This seems to be quite commonplace these days. There are shipping costs which need to be paid upfront. There may be some sort of insurance charges too. There will always be some sort of upfront charges. That is the key to this sort of scam. The tease is that they are advertising a very expensive and desirable purebred cat at a discount price that is in truth impossible but some people are so keen to adopt a fancy purebred cat, particularly the wild cat hybrids, that they chuck their common sense out of the window (if they had any in the first place) and send some money up front. They never get their cat.
This is not a comprehensive list. My impression is that the scam sellers (selling to Americans) pretend to be Americans living and working in America but are actually Asians living in Asia. Their online advert may use poor English which should be a warning. They may copy text from another breeder. This is because the writers of these adverts can’t write English that well and neither do they know much about cats!
So check for either poor English or check if the website selling the cat is a duplicate page from another site. You can use Copyscape to do that. If you go to the Copyscape home page and paste in the web address of the cat breeder’s webpage Copyscape will tell you where the same words are used on other sites.
Another sign, as mentioned, is that the prices are too low. In respect of the Savannah cat, you can check out prices by going to this page of PoC. Not only will the language be poor (if it is not copied from a genuine breeder’s site) the technical terms will be incorrect too. For instance, the seller might put “F3” meaning third filial with “SBT” (Stud Book Tradition which means F5 in cat breeder language). F3 cannot go together with F5 in this sort of sentence: “We have F3 SBT cats for sale”.
You can check out the claim that they are a “registered breeder” by checking with the cat association in question. So if the scam seller says they are TICA registered, you can go to TICA and check. TICA have a webpage of all the registered breeder names. This is a vast list and does not as I understand it mean that all these names refer to real breeders. It is just a list of registered names but useful nonetheless.
I am told that ASNClassifieds is a site where there are lots of scam cat sellers. There must be tons of others.
The Poor Breeder
There are a number of poor quality cat breeders. They run poor operations. They manage their cats poorly and have little concern for the welfare of their cats. They can present to the world, on the internet, a first class operation using fancy language and great pictures of championship winning show cats etc.
Buyers might be tempted to buy online and agree to the purchased cat being shipped by air. They are not scamming in the conventional way by simply taking money up front without any intention of supplying a cat. They will supply a cat but the cat will be poorly bred and inherently sick. The cat may have irresolvable or untreatable cat health problems. The buyer becomes attached to her cat and pays vast sums to a vet to cure the illness. The whole thing is traumatic for the cat and the buyer. The seller is heartless. At a distance it is difficult or near impossible for the buyer to resolve the matter with the seller if the seller wants to be difficult and obstructive.
What To Do
There is only one completely sure way to avoid these situations. If you are buying a cat you have to visit the breeder. See what is happening, ask questions and collect your cat in person and pay the money at the same time. Check out the breeding cats and the conditions they are living under. Get a decent contract too that satisfactorily deals with cat health issues. This may seem troublesome but it is the best way even if you put aside the possibility of being scammed. A visit to the breeder allows the buyer the chance to meet the cats. Cats choose their human companion it is said. And I tend to agree that on past experience. You have to meet your prospective cat companion before adoption I think.
If the buyer is intent on buying online without visiting the breeder he or she should send no more money in advance than she is prepared to lose without feeling upset.