Maine Coon Kitten Scam
There is a Maine Coon kitten scam going around. At first, I didn't even recognize it! I had noticed recently that on our FaceBook page, we began getting an occasional comment with a link to a pet service where kittens are available.
At first glance they look like a small hobby breeder. I thought, “how great people are finding and using the Maine Coon Cat Nation social community to connect!” Well, it seems I was a bit naive.
In the last week or so I've received emails from our MCCN community friends informing me of a Maine Coon kitten scam which is gaining traction right now.
It's not simply one perpetrator or one site that can be taken down, it's a Maine Coon kitten scam formula. And when they show up on a trusted site like ours in the form of an advertisement or comment, they have already snuck in. It can be like chasing one's tail to look for them and remove them when they crop up.
These kitten scam artists are definitely too close for comfort.
Maine Coon Kitten Scam Red Flags vs. What to Expect
These are things that, when taken together, should prompt one to research further, and proceed with caution. Be wary of:
A pet service that has no real website, just a page on a free platform like FaceBook. It may be a new page. The one I'm looking at as an example is about 3 weeks old. This is because they get reported, shut down, then make a new one.
When viewing this page, there is no phone number or physical address, even no breeder name. Or, they may have multiple cheap websites. These will be missing the 'things to look for' we'll discuss later.
Whenever they are asked where they are located, or what their prices are, or who they are, they reply with "message us directly for more info." or "check inbox" or "pm for details." Nowhere on this page can you see that this is a cattery located in a specific location run by a particular person.
Something in their grammar or presentation isn't quite right. Here are some that I found: "pure Maine Coon kittens for rehoming" (the use of "rehoming" isn't right in this situation)
"we would be pleased to satisfy you and others." or
“inbox this page if you need a baby." - not professional.
It looks like they use the same paragraph, copied and pasted in all their posts. One place didn't capitalize or even properly spell Maine Coon.
Who runs the page? If you can't find an administrator that's a red flag. If you do, are they located in a part of the world where scams tend to originate? The user who commented on the MCCN Facebook post was from Cameroon, West Africa. Interestingly, I then learned that many Maine Coon kitten scams originate there.
There will be no visiting permitted, and no physical address. (in some cases they will actually use the address of an unsuspecting homeowner, so definitely double check it.)
These Maine Coon kitten scammers are eager to sell kittens. They apparently currently have a kitten for anyone who asks. A real breeder on the other hand, plans litters in advance, perhaps only a couple litters per year. They have a waiting list.
If you do find out a price, and you've compared prices, the kitten scam price is low. It's a really good deal in comparison.
A Kitten Scam Formula:
You see an ad, comment, or link on a site you know and trust, and are interested in an adorable kitten.
They will want to ship right away. This is because they want you to send the money right away while you're looking at an adorable picture, before you have time to dwell on the specifics that don't feel right.
They will want to use a payment method you don't normally use and provides no fraud protection for instant money transfer.
Once they have the money, there will be additional shipping and delivery company fees. Then, the kitten may get sick. There will be a cost for vet bills, insurance, or special shipping for the ill kitten. By the time you figure out it's a kitten scam, it may have cost over $600, or much more.
Real Maine Coon Breeders
What to Look For:
A real breeder will usually have a fleshed out website. They'll have an “about us” page that tells you how they got into breeding. They'll
show their breeding girls and boys. You can see the lineage of kittens. You'll see their name and location.
The cattery will be registered with organizations such as TICA (The International Cat Association), CFA (Cat Fancier's Association). You can go on the TICA and CFA websites and cross-reference that the cattery is indeed registered there.
If there is only a FaceBook page for the cattery, display something in their about section, even if they choose not to show their home address, or name. There will be something, such as a link to their website, email address, mention of their location, and what organizations they are registered with so you can do that all-important cross-reference.
There will be multiple ways to contact them.
This is another reason to look for a kitten locally. Even if they aren't allowing cattery visitors anymore due to covid, you can see that it's a real place, with real local people and local references.
A real breeder will usually only have a few litters per year. Their website and social medial will most likely be filled with photos of kittens that are already spoken for, and info about planned litters for the future. You can expect to join a waiting list. Finding a Maine Coon kitten requires waiting and patience!
If they do have a kitten available, they'll have photos of it from newborn to recent. They will be happy to send a video, or do a video call. A kitten scam, on the other hand, usually has one photo of a kitten between 6-12 weeks of age. They probably won't be able to send more of this kitten at various ages.
To sum up, when you're looking for a kitten, you're looking for a Maine Coon breeder. And when looking for a breeder, look for transparency. Their website tells you all about them. Their social media shows you all about them. All the information is there for anyone to see and double check. No direct message required to find out who or where they are.
At this point it's easy to say kitten scammers must be easy to spot. But the thing is, it's only easy if you already know about them. If you don't, and your guard isn't up, it's all too easy to assume you're being told the truth.
After following links in comments, visiting the destinations in ads, I see now that there are a lot of these kitten scammers. They have very attractive websites, too.
If I didn't know what to look for, I'd think these were real websites.
They talk about being a small home cattery, with kittens raised underfoot, with love, exposed to children and dogs, well-socialized.
They talk about European lines, health testing, being a closed cattery and what that means. They have a fake story of how they got started.
One even displayed the TICA and CFA logos proudly on their page, saying they were registered! They were not.
Another forgot to replace the cattery name in one spot when they copied the page.
Basically, these scammers have visited real websites and know how to present themselves.
Here are the Maine Coon kitten scam red flags on a website:
🐾 They will say they are a small home cattery in "North America" or "United States." - That's not enough. A real breeder tells you their state and town, or at least their region/county within the state.
🐾 They don't display their name - first and last, full name, so you can confirm their identity. Just "us" and "we" and "our family."
Summary - Kitten Scammers Will:
🐾 Be eager to ship you a kitten, create a sense of urgency.
🐾 Want to use a non-secure method of direct electronic payment. Maybe even money order or gift cards.
🐾 They will want to use text, direct message on social media, and email. Most of them will not be keen on voice calls.
🐾 Remember that there is no valid reason for a breeder not to have a video call if you request one.
Kitten Scam Warnings From Our Friends:
"there's an ad with pictures of Maine Coon kittens for sale that appears on the beginning of your website, they look and sound legit, it is a scam. I got bitten for 650.00, because I thought they were associated with you, I now realize that they aren't, but please warn your readers."
So let's work together to spread the word about this Maine Coon kitten scam.