A Dangerous New Trend!
Have you heard of online puppy scams?
In recent years, the trend of online puppy buying and selling has greatly increased.
In fact, online and attempted online purchasing of dogs, puppies and other pets has skyrocketed and so have the scams associated with it.
Online pet scamming is especially high with puppies!
The number of online puppy scams is going way, way up as more and more people fall victim to them every year. Don’t be one of them.
Buyer beware, purchasing a puppy online is a bad idea for you and the puppy – if there even is one! Read on…
What are Puppy Scams?
Pet scams and scammers come in all shapes and sizes, just like the dogs themselves.
There are a variety of online methods that scammers use to advertise animals for sale when the pets don’t even exist. If they do exist, the scammer doesn’t have the pet in their possession and therefore cannot legitimately sell it.
It’s all a ploy to get you to send in your money (and lots of it) for a pet. All of this money goes toward puppies that you will never receive.
How A Puppy Scam Works
Here is how a pet scam might go down.
You are looking online for a puppy. You find one for sale by a purported breeder.
Or you find someone online who, for some reason (usually a sad one designed to tug at your heartstrings), is selling a puppy. There are lots of cute photos of the puppy or puppies and guarantees of things like their health and vaccinations.
There might even be a section about the alleged breeder with glowing testimonials. All of this is designed to peak your interest in the dogs and/or other pets advertised for sale. But unknown to you, it’s false!
The First Scam – A Deposit
The scam begins when you are, right off the bat, asked to put down a deposit on the dog. At first it might seem like a reasonable dollar amount. It’s going to get higher and higher as this baloney scam proceeds.
The Second Scam – Shipping Fees
The scam continues when you are asked to send the ‘seller’ more money to ship the dog, airline fees, etc. In fact, airlines have become an integral part of puppy scams. It’s easy for the scammer to blame an airline for all sorts of alleged ‘set backs’.
The Third Scam – Fees for Unexpected Expenses
The scam keeps on going when a few days later you are asked to send yet more money because of one excuse or another, such as:
- The seller needs to buy a new crate because his/hers is not up to code with the airline
- The puppy must be held at an airport because of issues with the plane so you need to send more money for food
- The dog was put on the wrong flight, so you need to buy a new plane ticket
- Something tragic happened to the seller and they missed the flight, so now more fees are incurred
- The seller might ask for yet more money for vet expenses
The excuse list is long and often creative. It's designed to keep you interested in the puppy and unaware of the truth.
The Puppy Scammer’s Goal
Puppy scammers aim to get as much money out of you as possible until you realize what is really going on and cancel the sale.
Here is the truth — there never was a puppy!
The Scammer’s Disappearing Act
Once you cancel the sale, you’ll never be able to find the criminal again or get a refund.
The seller’s phone number will no longer be valid. The website (or the ad) where you initially found the puppy online will disappear.
That is how most puppy scams work. After they take your money, the scammers start all over again. They post a new photo of another puppy. A new website and a different phone number until they find their next victim.
Online Puppy Prices
The prices of these animals sold online are almost always lower than market value. In fact, they are usually significantly lower than what the animals sell for legitimately.
This is not by accident. This is another way the scammers lure you in. I mean, we all want to pay less for something worth more!
While lower prices look good, this should be a red flag for anyone buying an animal online. Real breeders and legitimate pet retailers sell puppies at higher prices because they know their true value. They also know that responsible pet owners are willing to invest in a new family member.
Puppies are also more expensive from legitimate sellers. They come with their vaccinations and having received other necessary medical treatment(s) from a legitimate veterinarian. They might even come with health warranties.
Breed Scam Alert
If you see an otherwise expensive purebred puppy advertised online for a “bargain” price —BEWARE.
If you see a French Bulldog or Corgi, or any other purebred puppy listed for sale with an asking price of $500, this should raise your concern, big time!
Look online and research what others are selling that same dog breed for. Don’t simply think the discount, or deflated price is because the seller is nice or dumb. They are neither, they are preparing to bilk you out of lots of money.
Puppy Scammer Photos
Something else that should send up a red flag is the online image used to sell the puppy or pet.
Before you go any further on a website or in a random online sale, run a Google Image search of the puppy/pet you think you are buying.
If the image used online shows up more than once in the search, you are probably being scammed. The reason is that scammers take generic online images of puppies and use them in their scams.
Some take images from real breeder websites. They even steal videos from other online websites.
There are countless ways to find photos online and call them your own. That is what these scammers do.
To find out if an image has already been used, simply right click on the image and select “Search Google For Image.” Click that. You’ll be taken to a Google page with locations where the image has been used.
Always require the seller to send you multiple pictures of the puppy you are buying. You can ask for certain objects to be placed in the photo like a tennis ball.
Also request images of the dog in different situations, such as a photo of the puppy indoors and another outdoors. You get the point. This further confirms if the puppy is real or not.
Popular Breeds in Puppy Scams
Every type of dog breed falls victim to pet scams. Some are used more frequently than others to attract your attention. Scammers know which breeds are most popular; therefore, most lucrative.
The following graph from PetScams updates daily to reflect which breeds are used most for these scam
Avoiding Puppy Scams
Knowledge really is power when it comes to avoiding these types of bogus deals. There are key factors to look for when considering buying a puppy online.
Check out the Puppy
Health Certificate: Every dog shipped from one destination to another (that crosses state lines) in the U.S. is required to have a certificate of health from a licensed veterinarian before the puppy can legally be shipped.
The seller is required to file this certificate with the Department of Agriculture in the state in which the seller resides. It is required that the certificate contain the names of both the seller and buyer.
Demand a copy of the certificate of health before you put down a dime. If the seller does not have it, it’s a scam or they are unethical, and you should avoid any further contact.
Go Legit: Look for legitimate breeders. Visit a local pet store. Look for ads in the local newspaper. Avoid sites like Craigslist when you are shopping for any pet online.
Price Check: As stated above, always look online and research what others are selling the same dog breed for and price check. Go to as many different websites to compare the common cost and your scammer’s cost. Remember a scammer’s cost will always be lower than market value but high enough to make the scam worthwhile.
The Breeding Facilities: If you are purchasing online from an alleged breeder, ask to see the facilities. Get as much information as you can about the puppy’s parents to confirm good care, treatment, health and breeding. Ask for papers of confirmation if the seller claims the dog is registered with a registering agency like AKC.
Custom Photos: Also stated earlier, require multiple pictures of the puppy you are buying. You can ask for certain objects to be placed in the photo like a tennis shoe. Require images of the dog in different situations, such as a photo of the puppy on the seller’s lap and one with the puppy sleeping.
You get the point. You are making sure the seller has the puppy in his/her possession. If the seller only has or can only provide you with one photo, then it’s a stock photo and that puppy is not for sale!
Video: You are best to ask for video of the puppy too. Tell the seller you want video of the puppy with a piece of paper that has the current date on it. This way you know the video was taken that day and that the dog is in the seller’s possession, especially if you are buying from an individual. You’re just doing your due diligence.
Check The Website
Website Authority: Always check the authority of the website you are using. If you go to WhoIs.com and put in the website URL, you’ll be able to see who the owner of the site is. Paste the URL into the box in the top right corner of the site.
If it is registered to a person or company in another country (Russia, India or China) it might be a scam. You can also visit Moz.com. This site ranks websites on a domain authority scale of 0 to 100. If the puppy seller’s site has a domain authority of less than 10, it is either a very new site or a very inexperienced seller.
Online Check: Look for online and social media reviews of the breeder/website/seller. Google everything! If you cannot find information legitimizing the seller and/or reviews, buyer beware.
Social Media Check: Always ask any individual seller for their Facebook page, Twitter account and all social media outlets that they use so you can check it out. If they are “off the grid” so to speak, it’s a scam!
Pet Scam Check: You can check the IPATA’s current listing of pet scams. It’s updated with new scams every few months. It also provides examples of what scams look like and how they might go down.
Talk To The Seller
Meet Up: Try to meet the puppy before you purchase them. Take the pet to a vet to make sure it’s healthy.
Confirm Pet Arrival: When buying online from a pet retailer, call the retailer to confirm they have the puppy. Ask where the puppy is coming from or where it came from. If you are told the puppy came from a legitimate breeder, call that breeder to confirm the existence of the puppy and where (and to whom) the puppy was sent.
Ask About Payments Accepted: Scammers will not accept checks, credit cards, or bank wires. They will ask you to use MoneyGram or Western Union because they cannot be cancelled or reversed, and the receiver often cannot be traced.
If your seller requires you to pay in one of these two ways, run in the other direction! While all this work might seem daunting, these scams become easy to spot once you learn what to look for and how they operate.
Remember you are the one with the money, and the seller wants your money. Make them work for it. If asking for all of this makes the seller disinterested in you, it’s a scam!
Reporting a Puppy Scam
You can help fight against these types of pet scams. Reporting fraudulent websites gets them taken down. It takes time and money to build a website. Scammers must keep using their money to rebuild from scratch once their bogus sites are removed.
So, the more fraudulent sites that are taken down, the more frustratingly expensive it becomes for the scammer.
Use the following sites to report puppy scams:
- Federal Trade Commission
- Better Business Bureau
It is sad that it has come to this, but news clips, articles and other examples of puppy scams and their victims are all over the internet.
The situations are sad and usually devastating to their victims. Not only because they fall in love with the puppy they think they are getting, but, because they pay lots and lots of money — only to be played the fool when it’s over.
Don’t let this happen to you or your friends and family. If you share this blog with your friends on Facebook, Twitter and through email, everyone will soon know how to spot puppy scams. Together we can put these losers out of business!