How To Avoid An Online Puppy Scam

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Man holding smartphone with Craiglist ad for puppy (caption: How To Avoid Puppy Purchase Scams)Buying a puppy online can quickly turn into you spending hundreds (or thousands) of dollars but still being dogless. How? Because con artists are running puppy scams and getting away with it. Follow our suggestions to avoid being their next victim.

Article Overview

How To Avoid Puppy Scams

The most obvious way to avoid a puppy scam? Don’t purchase a pet online. However, there are other steps you can take to make sure you don’t get scammed.

Adopt From A Shelter

We’re strong advocates for adoption. There are many shelters and organizations you can adopt through, and if you need a recommendation, ask your vet, family, friends and neighbors.

Just because a dog is in a shelter doesn’t mean he comes with “baggage.” Many dogs wind up in shelters because the owner is moving and can’t take the dog with them, the dog was found and never claimed, adopting a dog was too much responsibility for the owner and other reasons that have nothing to do with the dog’s behavior.

If a purebred or specific breed is your heart’s desire, don’t be deterred from adopting. Many dogs need adopting, and there are some rescue groups dedicated to finding homes for specific breeds or purebreds.

Purebred Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Well-Bred

If you have your heart set on a purebred dog, but you aren’t finding one through a shelter, you want to make sure you’re buying from a legitimate breeder. (Take a look at this PDF from the Humane Society about finding a responsible dog breeder.) Legitimate dog breeders provide quality vet care for the animals, food and sanitary kenneling.

Many unprofessional breeders are trying to make extra cash but not willing to put in the time and money to breed good purebreds. It’s expensive to raise well-bred purebreds; therefore, they cost more to buy.

Never Buy A Dog From Craigslist

It’s okay to search on Craigslist for dog listings from reputable organizations, but we don’t recommend buying off the site itself. If you think you’re getting a purebred dog that’s well-bred from Craigslist, you’re not. Good breeders don’t need to post on Craigslist. They often have waiting lists and don’t need to search for buyers.

Research The Seller Extensively

If you must purchase a dog online, search the seller’s name and contact information with the words scam and complaint (e.g., John Doe scam) to see if they’re on a puppy scammer list.

Canine con artists are good at what they do, and they’re known for changing their names. So be aware that it can be just as bad if you search their name and come up with nothing.

Ask the seller for references and follow up with those references. Ask them about their experience with the seller.

Meet & Pick Up The Dog Yourself

You should be able to meet the seller and dog in person, see their place of business, collect all vet papers and obtain documentation for proof of your purchase. If the seller doesn’t want you to see the dog’s housing, that’s a red flag. Not to mention you should always meet a dog in advance to make sure he’s a good fit for your lifestyle. Choosing a dog based on his photo alone is like buying a house and never stepping foot inside.

Don’t Wire Money Or Send Prepaid Cards

You may think you’re “securing” your claim for a dog by wiring a “deposit” or full payment in advance, but, really, you’re getting scammed. Wiring money is like paying in cash; there’s no way to trace it back. A professional breeder won’t ask you to wire them money and then ship their valuable puppy off to someone they’ve never met.

Breeders care about their dogs and want them to go to good homes. It’s equally as important for you to find a dog that can mesh well in your life as it is for the breeder to find a comfortable home for each dog.

If the seller refuses refunds, that’s another red flag. Legitimate breeders will offer to help if a problem arises — that often includes taking a dog back or finding it a new home.

9 Signs Of A Puppy Scam

  1. Prices are too good to be true, or the price is negotiable, on sale or at a discounted price
  2. Puppy is free if you pay for shipping
  3. Seller won’t talk on the phone and only communicates through emails or texts
  4. The only way to get the puppy is to have it shipped to you, and you can’t pick it up
  5. You must pay by money transfer or prepaid debit card
  6. After you make a payment, there are suddenly more expenses (e.g., shipping insurance, vet bills, crate fees, etc.)
  7. The seller tells you a sad story about why the puppy is for sale for reasons such as a family hardship, relocation or death
  8. If the seller says something like, “We’re not breeders. Our dog just had puppies, so we’re trying to find them a good home.” Red flag that it’s a potential scam.
  9. The puppy’s photo is in other ads (discovered when you do a reverse image search)

Signs Of A Puppy Scam Infographic

Signs Of A Puppy Scam Infographic

What If I Think Someone Is Running A Puppy Scam?

If you think someone is running a puppy scam, file a complaint with your state attorney general’s office and with the Federal Trade Commission.

Dog DNA Tests Can Confirm Dog Breed

If you’re concerned about the breed make-up of a dog you want to buy, you could conduct a DNA test on the dog. Many breeders will even do this ahead of time to validate their claims and so you can see the results for yourself. We’ve reviewed the Best Dog DNA Tests, and we include pros, cons and more for each test.

Have you come across a nasty puppy scam?

About The Author:

Kimberly received her Bachelor of Arts in multimedia journalism from Simpson College. She has been writing about dogs since 2014, covering subjects such as dog insurance, training, health, accessories, and more. Her work has appeared in many notable brands, including The New York Times' Wirecutter, Reader's Digest, Forbes, People, Woman's World, and Huffington Post.

Kimberly's natural curiosity helps her research as she seeks the truth when learning about, comparing, and personally testing canine products and services. With every piece she writes, her goal is to help our readers find the best fit for their unique needs. Kimberly grew up in a family that loved Labrador Retrievers and remembers running and playing in the yard with them as a child.

In 2017, she and her husband adopted their Coonhound mix, Sally, from a local shelter. Kimberly’s research was put to good use since Sally faced some aggression issues with other dogs and needed some training to be an inside dog. She worked daily with Sally and sought help from professionals to help Sally become the happy pup she is today. One of Kimberly’s favorite pastimes is spoiling Sally with new toys, comfy beds, and yummy treats (she even makes homemade goodies for her). She tries to purchase the safest products for Sally and knows that each canine has their own specific likes and dislikes. Kimberly is passionate about dogs and knows the bond between humans and canines is like no other.

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