Pet scams are among the cruelest cons out there. They take your money and manipulate you emotionally. These frauds have evolved dramatically as the rise of technology has made it easier for online scammers, including those in the pet industry.

But don’t stress. We’re here to help. We’ll cover everything you should know on the topic and tell you how to avoid an online puppy scam. Here’s what you’ll find out:

How Do Pet Scams Work?

Let’s jump in with the basics. There are a few ways scammers get you. 

Pet Adoption Scams

Firstly, a fraud can set up a puppy adoption post online. Once you show interest, suddenly there will be hidden fees. By this point, most of us will have our hearts set on the dog, and we’ll be ready to do anything to welcome it into our homes. But scammers prey on our vulnerability

Frauds typically post advertisements on pet scam websites, social media, eBay, or Craigslist.

Pet Shipping Scams

Once you’ve made the payment, the fraud will send you all the information looking entirely legit, even the shipping slips. 

But alas, there won’t be a pup on the way. More often than not, the scammer will tell you there are additional fees when they get to the shipping location.

Fake Pet Shipping Companies

It usually goes hand in hand with the fraud above. Some pup scams are so intertwined that there’s an entire made-up company to convince you that your new pet is on the way.

Note that this doesn’t only happen for new adoptions. They might scam you if you send your pets somewhere, too. They’ll send a quote, take your payment, and then nobody will show up to take your furry pal to its destination.

How to Spot a Puppy Scammer

Let’s discuss a few red flags you should know about. You’re likely to notice more than one along the way if you’re being scammed.

Huge Discounts

Not every dog comes at a massive price, but pure and very sought-after breeds do. For instance, an Akita dog can go for $5,000. So, if you find a pup that usually costs a pretty penny on a huge discount, beware.

As the saying goes, if it looks too good to be true, it usually is.

Demands for Money

Another massive red flag of pet scammers is pushing you for money or making a quick decision.

A legitimate breeder or shelter wants pups to go to the best home possible. They won’t force people into forking out in the first five minutes of the interaction. So if the seller starts threatening or demanding funds for pet safety, don’t fall for it.

Pet Sitter Scams

I hadn’t heard of this one before researching the article, and it’s unscrupulous. 

A scammer pretends to need dog walking services, sending payment by money order. They overpay for the service, and the unsuspecting victim will send back what’s overpaid. 

Unfortunately, with a money order, the payment can go through in a few days, and then the cheque bounces after about a month at the bank. By that time, you’re out of pocket, and the scammer is long gone. 

Poorly Written Emails

Pet scams are often a copy-and-paste situation, so a scammer will use poorly worded emails, whether working alone or in a syndicate. They’re too busy stealing to worry about language and spelling errors. Also, some frauds intentionally write poor emails to gauge whether the person on the other end is paying close attention.

No Phone Number

Scammers give as little information as possible for obvious reasons. A seller should provide you with all their contact information, so make sure you ask for it. That includes a working email and phone number. 

Pet scammers don’t do well with confrontation, so if the seller avoids you, that’s not a good sign.

Lost Pet Scams

If our fur babies go missing, we get desperate, and for a good reason. Scammers prey on such situations. They’ll pretend to find your pet but want a reward before reuniting you with your furry companion. Take special care when posting on social media. 

Emotional Threats

If you receive any threat, be it personal or emotional, you’re doing business with the wrong person. Getting a pet is a big decision, so don’t do it if you feel pressured into it.

Legit breeders and shelters usually provide reassurance while frauds put undue pressure on you to make a quick decision without thinking. Plus, pet scams on the internet often have elaborate emotional backstories to pull at your heartstrings. Don’t fall for it. 

Limited Payment Options

Legit breeders and shelters have proper channels for payment. If you only get one option to a personal account, take caution. 

Pay particular attention to whether the account uses the same name as the person selling the dog. Also, note that the top fraudulent payment options include Western Union and MoneyGram

woman shopping online from the couch

How to Buy a Dog Online Without Getting Scammed

Unfortunately, there’s no surefire way to ensure you won’t get into a scam. It has become an industry as technology and obtaining information have advanced. But let’s discuss some ways to protect yourself.

Do Your Research

That’s the number one thing to do when purchasing a pup through a breeder or personal seller. 

If you research and can’t find anything on the breeder, like real reviews and contact information, we recommend running in the other direction. Reputable breeders remain transparent so that buyers know they’re legit. 

Additionally, you can also reverse search the images on the online posts, ads, or those provided by the breeder. Dog breeder scams usually use the cutest pictures and will reuse them often. 

Check the Seller’s Information

Always double-check the seller’s information. Look at the name used for communication, account information, and shipping details. Also, you can check for a puppy scammer list online and see if it mentions your seller. 

But don’t let us put you off. There are many signs of a reputable dog breeder. We recommend getting referrals, so speak with friends, family, and other pup owners before choosing a breeder.

Meet in Person

That has its pros and cons when dealing with dog scams online. How do you know it’s safe? 

One way to avoid a bad situation is always meeting in public during the day. Also, take someone with you or tell loved ones where and when you’ll be seeing the seller.

Meeting in person helps you scope out their knowledge and possibly meet your new furry friend, too. We highly recommend insisting that your future pet is there. Firstly, you know it’s real. Secondly, you can see how you interact with the pup.

Arrange a Video Chat

If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that we can do a lot over a video chat, including getting to know a seller. While meeting in person is the best way to avoid dog scams online, this is a close second. 

A video chat could give you a better idea if the seller is knowledgeable about pups in general and your new pup in particular. 

One basic way to tell if a pup seller knows what they’re talking about is to ask about specific food for your future dog. Read up on the best puppy food before the conversation, so you know at least a little on the topic. 

If the seller can’t tell you much about something as critical as food, that’s a warning sign. 

Transport the Puppy Yourself

Many pet delivery scams involve false shipping. So if the seller is pushing you to send your new furry friend instead of picking it up yourself, you have a reason to be suspicious. 

If the pup is traveling far, we highly recommend you choose an airline with good quality pet transport that gives options for a specific airline-approved pet carrier. That way, you’ll know your new friend is in safe hands.

Remember to double-check the airline as there are pet airways scams, too. 

How and Where to Report Pet Scams

If you believe you’re a scam victim, you can:

You can also report the scam to your bank and warn others on social media. 

You might dislike the idea of reporting the fraud, but that helps others who might get into the same situation. Plus, you’ll aid in catching the scammer and taking down fake puppy websites. 

The Best Way to Buy a Pet

We are all about the “adopt, don’t shop” policy. Around 3.3 million pups enter US shelters each year, and they all desperately need a home. 

So, before buying, please check out your local shelters. You never know; they might even have the breed you’re looking for. And if you just want a specific breed that you can only buy, that’s fine, too. Just be aware of pet scams and investigate where your new furry friend is coming from. 

Avoid pet stores at all costs because ⅔ of their puppies come from dealers. That means many arrive from horrendous puppy mills.

Our Final Thoughts on Dog Selling Scams

Unfortunately, pet scams are on the rise, and there’s not much we can do about it. Still, we can be aware of what’s going on and know the red flags to look out for. Always make sure you do your research

Find a reputable breeder, don’t believe in free adoption posts where you simply pay for shipping, and, above all, don’t buy from a pet shop. We hope these tips help you avoid falling into pet scams when looking for your furry bestie. 

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