In an ideal world, potential buyers and owners would not have to worry about puppy scams. Unfortunately, it is not only a problem we have to deal with, but it is on the rise. Online scams are especially common with the ease of money exchange and lack of details often traded.
Not only is this frustrating and upsetting due to the loss of money. But owners are also distraught that their family member is never going to arrive. We want to show you what to be aware of and how to avoid puppy scammers so you don’t have to worry.
Signs of a Typical Puppy Scam
Before even worrying about an agreement you have made with a breeder, we want to show you the signs to spot a puppy scam.
Perhaps you have contacted a seller with the perfect puppy for your home. If they immediately reply demanding payment or state they cannot answer questions until payment has been received, this is a red flag. Of course, breeders want to know that their time is not being wasted. But good breeders will put the safety and re-homing of the puppy before anything. They should be responding to your questions, asking their own, and setting up a meeting. If money appears to be their prerogative, then look elsewhere.
Even if the breeder you are contacting has answered some of your questions, immediate payment is always a red flag. Pay can be discussed but without a puppy contract and a visit, breeders should not be asking for full payment. Some breeders will have schemes where you can place a deposit for the puppy. This can be a personal preference for business tactics and should not be a concern. But before you agree to a deposit, check out a breeder’s reviews and ask for proof of puppy contract, the health of the parents, and any vaccinations.
If there is a perfectly healthy puppy being advertised to have a high discount on their price, be aware. However, how can you tell the difference between a puppy scam and an actual discount? Firstly consider the age of the puppy. There is no reason for a puppy in good health to be given away for a discount unless they have aged a considerable amount. Then the breeder may lower the price to get the pup a home. However, if a very young puppy is advertised as the last of the litter, but is still a young age, a discount may be suspicious.
You also need to look at how much of a discount they are offering. If a puppy was being sold for $400 and is now being sold for $360, this isn’t a red flag depending on the reason why. However, is a dog normally sold for $1000 is being sold for $200, this is a big red flag. If a dog can still be classified as a puppy, it has no need for it to be sold for a discount. Not unless there is a sudden health issue or an emergency reason to rid the puppy.
Asking for Wire Transfer
If a breeder is asking for a wire transfer, you must ask yourself, why would they require that if you will see them in person to pick up the puppy? Of course, not every breeder that requests a wire transfer is running a puppy scam. However, it is something you have to consider as once a wire transfer has been made by you, a scamming breeder could leave and delete all contact with you. But how can you tell if a wire transfer is trusty?
If you have already been to visit the puppy, both of you have agreed upon a puppy contract, and then they ask for a deposit before the final pick up. This is most likely nothing to worry about, it may just be an easy form of payment. However, if the breeder has asked for full payment after one or two messages, be suspicious. Especially if they either refuse to send a picture of the dog or send a stock photo. Consider reverse searching images to see if they have been posted by other users and copied by a breeder.
Citing Shipping Complications and Additional Charges
Puppy scams are more well-known for taking a buyers money and never having a puppy in the first case. However, sometimes they will sell a puppy but enforce additional charges through lies. One way they can do this is by citing shipping complications. Many buyers in the USA will have puppies shipped to their nearest airport. Usually, notifications are only sent to the breeder as they shipped them, usually under request. This way the breeder can state that there was a problem during shipping and additional costs require payment, such as extra plane tickets or fuel costs.
As owners are so excited and worried about their new puppy, many will dish out the extra cash without any questions asked. Those that do ask questions may be threatened by the breeder, with the chance of the puppy being returned and then they are not allowed to re-purchase it. There is also the possibility that a very confident scam artist will apply the extra shipping costs as well as not supplying you with a puppy at the end.
Communication Through Email
So many businesses communicate through email, so why should it be a warning sign? Often it’s not, unless they refuse to communicate in any other method before funds are exchanged. By using an email a breeder is able to conceal themselves and present an image they wish to. For example, a scammer may present themselves as a more vulnerable and confused individual to attempt to put the buyer at ease and not worry about the possibility of a scam. An email can also be used to avoid a face to face meeting, show a puppy, and allows the scammer to think of a thorough reply.
When on a phone call, you could ask questions that the scammer has not prepared for and cause you no have doubts about their legitimacy. Whereas an email will allow them time to prepare an appropriate response as well as think of an excuse if needs be. This could give them the chance to convince you to pay them a deposit and allow them to slip away.
Copied Listing or Pictures
Sometimes puppy scams will copy a whole advert from other, regulated breeders. This grants them ease in their crime along with a convincing advert to attract your attention. Furthermore, they can offer multiple pictures of the same puppy in an attempt to convince you. They can also research the breeder they are attempting to impersonate, or at least impersonating their sale, and learn more background facts. These allow them to seem more convincing in their pitch, put you at ease, and increase the likelihood of their scam working.
Some puppy scams may combine copied pictures to try to convince buyers they have bred many different litters over the years. Don’t allow yourself to be fooled by a seller with multiple pictures. Contact is everything and a good posting and pictures may seem brilliant, but could easily have been copied from someone else’s hard work.
How to Avoid Puppy Scams
We have summarized the best methods to avoid puppy scams and find a legitimate seller.
Don't Wire Money
A simple solution to avoid puppy scammers is to not wire money. When purchasing a puppy you can agree to give money in person to the breeder to avoid any scams. However, problems may arise on the side of the breeder as many breeders want a deposit. In this case it is worth considering dropping off the deposit in person while the puppy is very young and then discussing the contract in the weeks leading up the appropriate re-homing age.
However, it isn’t always possible to travel and drop off a deposit. Therefore, if you must wire money, ensure some contract is already put in place. The contract should have the breeder’s signature along with valid contact numbers. Furthermore, only do this with breeders with high reviews and trustworthy recommendations to ensure safety.
Meet the Seller and Dog
By meeting the seller and dog, you can prevent a puppy scam and be provided with confidence that this is a legitimate breeder. Firstly, you can ask the breeder all kinds of questions and gauge their responses. If they seem knowledgeable and passionate, this is a good sign. You should be wary if they seem avoidant and sharp in their responses.
Furthermore, you can view the dog, parents, and breeding facilities. Any good breeder will allow you to view the parents of a puppy so you can gauge their future temperament, size, and coloring. This allows you to see if this puppy would be well suited for your family and living situation. Also, observing the breeding facilities will let you see the cleanliness, enrichment, and proper care for the dogs, or lack of.
Research General Market Prices for Your Breed
By researching the general market price for your pup, you can see if the price recommended by a breeder makes sense. If it is either very steep or very low, be cautious, and look into why that is.
If a puppy matches the breed standard of their particular breed, their cost can be far more expensive. This is because they are of show-quality as opposed to pet-quality. The price can also be increased if the breeding or lineage is of champion dogs. However, always make sure you have proof that this claim is legitimate as it is easy to write in an advertisement. Rare colorings may also be a reason to raise a puppy’s price, but these are the most common and justified reasons. Be cautious of others. Similarly, if the costs are low for a puppy or very discounted, always be wary and ask why.
Get a Contract in Place
Creating a puppy contract along with a breeder is one of the most effective methods to ensure that you are not a victim of a puppy scam. These contracts are beneficial for the breeder, buyer, and the puppy’s welfare. Therefore, you should be cautious of a seller who refuses to create a puppy contract or has not got one formed.
Welfare and finances are two of the top targeted points in puppy contracts. Therefore, why wouldn’t a breeder want to ensure these are agreed upon by both parties? This can be a sign of an inexperienced, low-quality breeder, or a scam artist that doesn’t want to sign any contracts. Furthermore, breeders can benefit financially from contracts as they ensure a seller pays the full amount, and even agree upon extras if agreed circumstances aren’t fulfilled.
Use Scam Tracking Websites
There are multiple pet scamming websites including petscams, bbb, and The International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA). These websites will keep records of scamming websites, breeders, and contact information. These are reported and researched by workers and the public. These websites will research the claims and publicize any of those that prove to be scams.
But you don’t want to spend hours searching through them to see if you find the breeder in question. Luckily, these sites offer a handy search feature for contact details, names, and website names (depending on the site). This allows you to identify already recognized scammers. However, new scammers or those that have changed their details may not be recognized. Therefore, do not take these sites as confirmation that the breeder you are consulting with is not a scammer, consult other factors as well.
Don't Look at Classified Sites
Classified sites are those that allow the sale of anything by anyone (pretty much). As these are so general, it is very easy to sign up and post minimal details. Specific dog selling websites may require more details of proof by the breeder or of the puppies. Therefore, this is one of the easiest methods of advertisements and will often be pursued by scammers.
Also, if they are caught, they can simply deactivate their account and create a new one within ten minutes. This allows for easy disappearances when they need to whether it be from a suspicious character or after just receiving a payment from a scammed customer. Classified sites typically prevent negative repercussionsfor scammers, which is why they use them so commonly.
Understand Shipping Laws and Be Wary of Scammy Shipping Services
Be aware of the shipping laws in your location as it can prevent you from being scammed with fake shipping costs and services. For example, if you live in California and are receiving and a package from Nevada, check the shipping laws in both states.
A breeder may claim that they require extra costs for shipping when you can research the area shipping laws and disprove this. Therefore, always make sure a contract is signed including all the costs beforehand so you can disprove scamming claims during discussions.
Search Online Communities
There are so many different social media communities to search for reviews, opinions, and different experiences of buyers with particular buyers.
From positive to negative reviews, buyers can discuss their different experiences of breeders and who to watch out for. This is a great technique to employ when you are first contacting a breeder.
Reverse Search Images and Posts
Puppy scam artists will often use posts and pictures of real breeders’ dogs to try and present an attractive persona. By using reverse image search and posts, you can check for where the images and posts originally came from.
Check out this easy guide to find out how to do a reverse image search on your phone. This can help to eliminate some of the more convincing scammers.
Puppy Scam Lists
Both regulated and unregulated sites exist which report puppy scams. Although these sites can be very useful, they can also be inaccurate. But which websites are worth looking into and how do you report and check out scammers? Look no further, we have all the information right here.
The International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) are pet shipping experts. They contain a thorough list of pet scammers and the years they were recognized in. The administration method as you just contact the email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This website details identification of scammers along with all the current scammers reported and their identification details. They ask you to send all details you know when trying to report a scammer along with evidence and forwarded emails of proof. This company is legitimate, but whether or not they research these claims is not directly mentioned, so there is a chance of a mistake.
Another website that identifies puppy scammers is Petscams.com. They target puppy scammers websites and not individuals details. If you wish to report a puppy scamming website press this link to report an investigation claim.
Just because you submit a claim does not mean that this website will automatically be added to their scammer directory. Instead, an investigation will be opened where the petscams team will research the claims. This can take up to a week depending on the backlog and how large the website is. If they discover evidence of fraud, the website will then be added to their list of puppy scam artists.
Fraud.org deals with all kinds of fraud complaints to make scammers more well known. They have a specific section purely for petscams, and like with any fraud, you can easily form a complaint on the website.
Simply click ‘file a complaint’ button and you will be asked to fill in a thorough complaint form so the team can properly research the complaint. From all your contact with the individual to all the contact information, this form requires a lot of depth. This is why we believe it is one of the most valid fraud websites due to its depth of research and publication of puppy scammers.
Puppy Scams – FAQs
You may still be left with a few questions about puppy scams. Well don’t fret, we have put together an FAQ to solve just that!
How do you Spot a Pet Scammer?
To give a quick summary, check for bluntness, money orientation, and a lack of welfare. Breeder’s priorities should be for the care and welfare of their animals before anything else. If they seem to have little care about this in their advertisements or when you are conversing, they may be a pet scammer.
Similarly, if the breeder seems to be very money-oriented and not very knowledgeable, this is a warning sign. They may have no dogs and be trying to receive a payment before you become wise to their tricks. Furthermore, breeders should care for the customers and business. This is their profession, and if they are rude and blunt, it may be because the loss of you isn’t that important to them.
How do I Know if a Breeder is Legit?
A legitimate breeder will care about their animals’ welfare before anything else and have good reviews and ratings wherever you look. Furthermore, reputable breeders will have puppy contracts put in place to ensure both the breeder, buyer, and puppy will be happy.
Ask your breeder questions about the dog you are purchasing, other dogs, and their general history with breeding. They should be passionate about the animals and do everything to create a sanitary business with high welfare standards. Furthermore, reviews from the breeder on social media or websites should be positive and informed. If you stumble across multiple negative reviews, it is always worth reading through them. Finally, puppy contracts are a good sign of a breeder that knows what they are doing. The welfare of the dog is ensured along with finances agreed upon in the contract. So if a breeder is not interested in a puppy contract, you may want to ask yourself why that is.
How do you Find if a Breeder is Registered?
This is a relatively simple process. If a dog breeder confirms they are registered, you are able to contact the kennel club they are registered to and get them to confirm it. They should be easily able to search the database to tell you if this is true or not. Otherwise, you can ask the breeder to show the correct documentation to prove the validity of their registration.
How can I Avoid a Puppy Scam?
Be cautious and not too trusting to avoid a puppy scam. Unfortunately, these people are out there and they will prey on the vulnerable. This means that you should ask breeders to back up their claims, check reviews, and definitely visit the dog and facilities if it is possible to do so. Never take a breeder’s word for something because they may be a scam artist hiding behind an advertisement.
As long as you remain vigilant and check the claims of breeders before agreeing to anything, you can avoid puppy scams. Stay alert and do your research and you’ll find a breeder as passionate about their dogs as you are.