With more consumers shopping online for pets, learning how to identify pet scams is an absolute necessity. So, how can you avoid online puppy scams? Well, it?s easier if you know what a puppy scam is and what red flags to look for.?Here?s what you need to know before you begin your online puppy search.

The Anatomy Of A Puppy Scam?

Puppy scammers often steal photos of puppies or entire litter of puppies from reputable breeders and then repost these stolen photos online as puppies for sale. While these fake listings often appear on websites such as Craigslist, some scammers find ways to position themselves as reputable breeders by stealing personal information from them. Other scammers go as far as creating entire Facebook profiles filled with these stolen photos to make their scams look more legitimate. Then they post dozens of comments below the photos on legitimate breeder’s pages with links to their fake Facebook profiles (see image to the right).

?If you aren?t careful, you just might find the perfect puppy, send your hard-earned money, and never receive a puppy or even a follow-up email in return.

Following are some red flags you should be aware of to ensure your puppy buying experience is both safe and enjoyable.?

Here Are Some Red Flags?


  • Seller will not communicate by phone.?If the seller by words or action, refuses to communicate by phone and instead resorts to communicating strictly by email, this is a red flag. A reputable breeder will always communicate with you via phone or video chat (if not in person) before selling you a puppy. Fraudulent sellers are oftentimes outside of the U.S. and communicating only by email may be a means of hiding their phone number, and ultimately their real identity.
  • Strange payment requests.?The seller asks you to wire money or use a gift card as a form of payment. Apps such as Venmo or other non-secure methods of payment, make it highly unlikely that you will get your money back. Paying by credit card or PayPal are typically the safest options.
  • If the price is too good to be true,?it most probably is! Purebred dogs sold at deeply discounted prices are almost always frauds. If a seller claims they register their dogs with a specific organization, such as the AKC, call the organization to confirm. Make sure you research the prices for the breed or breeds you are considering ahead of time.
  • Stolen or stock photos.?The puppy photos or ad text can be found on multiple websites. A Google image search or search for the text in the ad could reveal if the seller copied and pasted it from another site.
  • Free dog scam. Free dog scams are a common type of scam. Many of these fake pet shipping companies offer a ?free? puppy to a good home. Scammers use terms such a ?free? or ?cheap? because they know that many people start their online search for puppies using these keywords.
  • Discounted shipping scam. The scammer claims that they will ship the pet directly to you, all you must do is pay the shipping costs. Some even offer a discount on standard pet shipping rates.
  • Asking for money to cover unexpected/additional costs. Once a victim falls for the scam, the scammer asks for money to cover ?unexpected fees? that they were unaware of prior to agreeing to ship the puppy. They will use a myriad of excuses such as shipping insurance, additional paperwork, shots, or the airline is requiring a temperature-controlled crate. Once a scammer has a victim on the hook, they will every excuse to keep them there and sending money for as long as possible. Legitimate breeders often use lap nannies. Lap nannies are typically employed by an airline or employed by someone who is. They often work with reputable breeders but are paid independently to deliver your new puppy.

How to Ensure You Are Dealing With a Reputable Online Breeder?


While scammers are likely to start talking money immediately, legitimate sources will always take time and diligence to make sure the dog you are choosing is a good fit for your family.

  • Ask to meet your breeder in person.?When possible, meeting our breeder in person is great idea. When that is not possible, always ask to talk on the phone or video chat.
  • Reviews and referrals.?The best sources for purebred puppies will have plenty of positive reviews or referrals from satisfied puppy owners.
  • Ask questions.?Responsible breeders love to chat and educate potential customers about their dogs. Don?t be afraid to ask the breeder anything you might want to know. Ask about their experience as a breeder, the breed, the sire, dam or the available puppies.
  • Ask for proof.?Responsible breeders are happy to share information about your puppy?s parents, including proof of health records and screenings. You should be sure that the puppy has been seen by a licensed veterinarian?and is current with their shots.
  • Get documentation.?Be sure you receive your puppy?s papers. The words ?American Kennel Club? as well as the AKC logo should be clearly visible. If the breeder or seller hesitates to give you papers, you should consider that a red flag.
  • Don?t allow yourself to be pressured.?If they are pressuring you to complete the sale, in a hurry to get your deposit as soon as possible, or if you feel like they are pressuring you to make a quick decision, this behavior could be a warning sign.


Now you should have enough information to begin your puppy search safely. Don?t ignore the red flags, ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable, and good luck with your search!

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