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Few things pull at a person’s heartstrings like an adorable puppy or cuddly kitten. Scammers know this. And BBB Scam Tracker has seen an increase in people losing money to puppy scams this holiday season.
How the Puppy Scams Work
You find an adorable puppy on a website or an online ad. Sometimes, scammers claim they are breeders. Other times, they act like a distraught pet owner who must find a new home for their beloved dog or cat. Either way, once you’ve fallen in love with the pictures and videos, they ask you to wire money to make the purchase.
Some people purchase puppies for Christmas for the family. And, puppy scammers know this so they focus their efforts during the holiday season even more than usual. Keep reading for some important tips that you can follow to avoid being conned this year.
Once the purchase is complete, the “owner” promises your dog or cat will be shipped right away. But there are always “unexpected” problems: The airline requires a specific pet crate, you must pay for an expensive vet visit, or the shipper requires costly pet insurance. With each problem, scammers promise that they will refund the unexpected costs as soon as your pet is delivered. Unfortunately, your dog or cat never existed in the first place.
Tips to Protect Yourself from Pet Scams
Never wire money to people or companies you don’t know and trust. Once the money is wired, it is gone for good. The same goes for pre-paid debit cards or gift cards. Don’t get conned by someone offering a very low price for a rare or exotic breed of puppy. Only give money to breeders that have been recommended and are trustworthy.
How do I find a legitimate dog breeder?
See the pet in person before making a purchase. This is the only sure way of making sure your cat or dog exists and will be delivered to you without fail. Speak to a local veterinarian’s office to see who they recommend in the area. They should be able to refer you to someone who is legitimate and who treats their puppies with love and special care.
How to spot a puppy scammer
Research prices. Make sure you know roughly how much the specific breed you are interested in costs. If someone is offering a purebred puppy at an extremely reduced price, chances are it’s a fraud. Up to 80% of websites advertising puppies for sale are puppy scams. Be aware and shop locally to be safe.
Do a reverse image search for the image of the puppy that they provide. Many of these scammers purchase stock photos of the puppy to use. So, you will find the exact same image in multiple places. If you see this, it’s a red flag and indicates that this is a puppy scammer and not a reputable dog breeder.
Look for a local dog breeder that has recommendations from the local Better Business Burea and your Humane Society or veterinarian’s office. Ask friends locally for referrals for dog breeders that they have used. Avoid places like CraigsList because many puppy scammers use these types of online sites to scam people. It’s always important that you see the puppy in person before you send any money for their purchase.
Can breeders ship puppies?
Generally, puppy breeders will not ship young puppies. They will want to deliver the puppy to you personally. And, they will want you to pick them up. If someone is offering to fly a puppy to you, and they tell you they need a special crate and are other expenses, it’s likely a puppy scam.
More information about puppy scams
To learn more about how to protect yourself from pet scams, see BBB.org/PuppyScam. For more about avoiding scams this holiday season, check out BBB.org/Holiday-Tips. A smart shopper is an informed shopper. You can find the dog breed that you want. But, it’s important that you shop carefully.
How do I report a dog scammer?
If you’ve been a victim of a puppy scam, report it on the BBB Scam Tracker to help others avoid a similar fate. If people don’t report their experiences, these people will continue to operate.
Ellen is a busy mom of a 22-year-old son and 27-year-old daughter. She owns 5 blogs and is addicted to social media. She has been running a small pet sitting business in southern Vermont for the past three years. She’s a proud Mommy to 2 shelter kitties. If you’d like to work together, email firstname.lastname@example.org to chat.