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Social media can connect us to friends and family across the country — but it can also connect us to scammers. Impersonators on TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook are pretending to sell exotic animals to try and get people’s money. Here’s how to spot and avoid these scammers.

Imagine you’re scrolling through your feed and see a cute animal, like an exotic bird. You’re interested and look at the seller’s profile, which turns out to be the business page of what looks like an exotic bird business. The profile directs you to message them if you’re interested, so you do.

Soon they say you can only pay with a payment app, cryptocurrency, wire transfer, or gift card. Once you pay, you get an update that your bird is in transit…but there’s a problem and they need more money. You’re eager to meet your new companion, so you pay that, too.

This can go on for several days. But once you start asking questions and stop sending money, the seller disappears. Why? Because it was all a scam.

So how do you avoid scams like this?

  • Insist on paying with a credit card. Credit cards offer the most protection if a seller turns out to be a fraud. If an online seller says you can only pay with gift cardswire transferspayment apps (like Apple Pay, CashApp, PayPal, or Zelle), or cryptocurrency, walk away. That’s a scam.
  • Do a reverse image search. Check to see if you can find the animal’s photo anywhere else — like on another seller’s website. If so, it might be a scam.
  • Check prices elsewhere. How much is that kind of pet usually sold for? If you find someone selling for much cheaper, it might be a red flag that it’s a scam.

Spot a scam like this? Report it at

Shopping on social media? Learn to spot and avoid a business impersonator.

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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
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  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
  • We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to

We don't edit comments to remove objectionable content, so please ensure that your comment contains none of the above. The comments posted on this blog become part of the public domain. To protect your privacy and the privacy of other people, please do not include personal information. Opinions in comments that appear in this blog belong to the individuals who expressed them. They do not belong to or represent views of the Federal Trade Commission.

M. Doolittle
May 20, 2024

Received an email notification "Paypal Invoice". It lists a helpline (805) 319-4904.
They call it an "Unauthorized Transaction" payment for $779.99 & indicate we should call them a the number listed to cancel.

Is this fraud? We don't have a Paypal account. I can send you a copy of the letter.

Nancy Utz
May 20, 2024

Glad you are here. I have been scammed by someone representing themselves as U.S.MILITARY. I did reverse on profile picture and sure enough he is scammer

May 20, 2024

The more important issue is that, even if the seller delivers on the sale, people should never participate in the trafficking of wild/exotic animals by purchasing one. The capturing & trading animals from the wild usually involves deforestation, risk of zoonotic diseases, and of course trauma to the captured creature. If the animal was bred in some type of animal mill, the latter 2 issues still apply. Animals belong in their natural habitat, not in cages or glass containers.

May 28, 2024

They aren’t going to “try and get people’s money” (we hope), they’re going to try TO get people’s money.

Ellen Tchartorisky
June 03, 2024

Let the exotics be by not supporting this cruel trade. Wonderful domestic pets who crave human companionship die due to lack of loving homes