Researchers at Anomali have discovered eighteen scam websites offering pets for sale. Most of the websites purport to be selling dogs, although some offer cats and birds as well. The sites are all operated by the same group of scammers that use similar social engineering tactics to lure people in.

“The websites all share similar and sometimes identical text in their reviews/testimonials pages,” the researchers write. “There are also numerous typos in the testimonials with one post discussing how a German Shepherd had ‘hatched’ and was available, which is a clear copy-and-paste error from the actors’ bird fraud websites.”

While the scammers’ writing skills won’t win any awards, the photos of puppies may be enough to get people to lower their defenses. If a user clicks the “Buy me!” button, they’ll be taken to a contact form where they can get in touch with the scammers.

The researchers explain that the scammers are exploiting the holiday season as well as the increased demand for pets amid the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has increased pet purchases as stay-at-home policies and remote work makes people seek companionship from their animal friends, a condition that may amplify the bad actors’ ability to run a more successful scam,” the researchers write. “Furthermore, these scams focus on purebred dogs, which again are increasingly difficult to find.”

Anomali offers the following tips for users to avoid falling for scams:

  • “Be extremely cautious if the price is too good to be true.
  • “Be extremely cautious if the site does not provide you with the owner’s names, address, and social pages.
  • “Pay attention to elaborate testimonials that are too good to be true. They are often copied too, so you may google a part of it to see if it is unique.
  • “Pay attention to typos and phrases like “Labrador baby had hatched,” scammers often sloppy in their templates and have bad English.
  • “If they give you a phone number, try Googling it. Often the fraudsters use the same phone number for different schemes, and it might be already listed on some scam lists.
  • “Be extremely careful if you are advised to pay for your future pet with Bitcoins or gift cards, which is even more suspicious.”

And besides, people who can’t keep the puppies and the hatchlings apart in their own minds can hardly be reliable pet sellers. And, as always, new-school security awareness training can teach your employees to follow security best practices.

Anomali has