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

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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 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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Jennifer Hornburg

On March 19, 2020 I was online searching the classifieds on our local newspaper “Kansas City Star” for Yorkshire puppies. I came across an ad for Yorkshire puppies on, I contacted the person (979-888-5964), who I was unaware of the person living in Houston Texas as they were advertising on a local newspaper in my area. I reached out to them (Donald/Maria) and they said they can ship the puppy to me, they just needed the amount for the puppy to be transferred to ($donaldavis95) via the Cash App and informed me of the shipping cost would be $125. I agreed to pay this amount with the additional $410 for the cost of the puppy, totaling $535.00 -Transferred on 3/19/20.

The seller sent me the shipping information this morning, I was contacted by the “shipping people” First-class Shippers that I would have to pay $945 in pet insurance (Which I was not made aware of by the seller) before they would ship the puppy to me. I was told I need to use the Cash App to transfer funds to ($shasha199, sharon). I immediately suspected this was a scam, I declined and immediately contacted the seller I was backing out and requested a full refund of $535.00. The seller said that they would refund my money as soon as they pick the puppy up from the shipping center (by 2:15p). I have not been able to contact or get in contact with the seller and they have not refunded my money. All I want is the money I paid for the purchase of the puppy. Unfortunately, they have blocked me and I still have not gotten my money back nor have I heard from anything from this company.


I was also scammed by this exact website. I was able to get a name of a person involved and phone number. Of course I’m blocked as I found their social media account and all trying to get back my funds but I have tried! This is a awful thing to be scammed

B.C. Bonilla-Oleson

Just last week, I was scammed by ‘CityTeaCups’, supposedly based out of Oklahoma City, OK., for the amount of $700, sent through my bank Zelle app, as he specifically requested. They have their own website, which is still up and running!! I’m sick about this!! I’ve tried to always be a ‘saavy’ internet user, and for the most part, can smell a scam a mile away..but this time, being vulnerable to where my heart was at, (our little Teacup Chihuahua had just died) and this is what ‘they’ do.


I understand that just last week something happen to me with a chow 750 same payment save by my husband found it on the scam list and it’s still up I reported it to and it’s on akc can you believe that

Dr. Linda S. Cameron

Was planning tp adopt/ purchase a Yorkie for really cheap price. Asked for a Western Union transfe4. The copany ie located out og state.