One of the most heartbreaking things is getting a phone call from a family that has just been scammed when trying to purchase a puppy online. Unfortunately, with all of the advances in technology even the savviest person can fall into the hands of a well-prepared scammer.
Don’t think that they are not ready to tell you what you want to hear. I have called them myself and my jaw drops with their ability to manipulate and use a buyer’s emotions to get that money in their pockets.
This is upsetting and frustrating and not only due to the loss of money, but most importantly owners are distraught that their new family member is never going to arrive.
It may have taken months to save $1000 and to know that you will never see that money again or have a puppy is a real difficult situation to endure.
I want to educate you in being able to look at the signs and red flags of puppy scammers.
What do puppy scammers do?
They impersonate real good ethical breeders. That’s right, they will follow a breeder in social media, call them, get information and learn everything they can about them. Scary isn’t it? I have had those calls. They pretend to be a very interested buyer and request pictures and videos and so on, only to then resend them to their victim. By knowing so much about a breeder and how a conversation is handled they are more convincing in their pitch, put their victim at ease and increase the likelihood of their scam working. IT IS TERRIFYING.
Puppy scammers will go as far as creating a fake website with stolen pictures (and yes they know how to remove a watermark) they will copy everything from multiple breeder websites and create a social media with FAKE FOLLOWING. Yes! they pay for fake followers. Scammers spend a considerable amount of time and effort to make you fall into their trap.
Puppy scammers have been around for a very long time. They can sense your desperation for a puppy. You must be careful to not have a heart-breaking experience in what should be a wonderful unforgettable experience.
How do I spot a puppy scammer?
1. No phone calls: The seller will email you galore and message you through social media like there is no tomorrow. High pressure selling. If they refuse to talk to you, then that’s a RED FLAG. Why? Because on a call you can ask questions they are not prepared to answer. On an email they have time to research and think of a thorough reply. A reputable breeder will always want to TALK to you before selling you one of their puppies. They want to find the best homes for the puppies, so it becomes a search for them as it does for you. Most will have an application and interview; they want to know about the family their puppy will have. If the breeder doesn’t ask any questions, perhaps s/he is not a scammer but either way RUN.
2. Lack Of Knowledge: Every breeder has a purpose behind their program or should have. Why do you do what yo do? Why did you choose this breed? Scammers only have one purpose and that’s to take your hard-earned money. So, research your breed or ask questions about the breed specifically. Something as easy as the breed history will do.
3. Inconsistent photos and backgrounds: This can get very difficult to spot. However, you want to look at the pictures and how consistent they are in their backgrounds. Some are easy to see they are stolen and taken from multiple websites.
4. Suspicious Payment Options: Gift card? Wire? Bank Transfer? RUN.
5. Bargains and High Discounts: If its too good to be true then it is. You must know that some scammers will say things like the puppy is free and you pay for the shipping. RUN.
6. Immediate Payment: This is as clear as that. Payment must be immediate and that’s all they keep on talking about. Making you feel like the puppy will be gone in the next 5 minutes if you don’t send the money right away.
7. Citing Shipping Complications and Additional Charges: Usually after a scammer has received money from their victim, all follow up emails are about all these complications with shipping and all of these additional charges that must be paid in advance. Stop sending money. REPORT AND RUN.
How do I avoid puppy scams?
- Don’t wire money. EVER. Even if you have to pay a small percentage for buyers protection through different platforms, it is a small price to pay for the money you could potentially be losing.
- Meet seller and puppy: You don’t have to do this in person, you can facetime and get the peace of mind that the puppy in the pictures is indeed the puppy in the video.
- Research general market prices for your breed: You must know a general range of pricing for your breed. If it’s too good to be true, run.
- Review health guarantee and contract: An ethical reputable breeder will provide you with a health guarantee and contract. Ask to review it prior to sending any money.
- Use scam tracking websites: petscams.com, bbb, ipata.org
- Understand shipping laws and services: Knowledge is power. Find out what you need about shipping a puppy in your state. Some breeders use flight nanny companies (make sure they are licensed and insured), others will even fly the puppy to you themselves.
Buying a puppy is a serious life decision that should not be taken lightly. Researching breeders and ethical practices will go a long way when choosing where your puppy comes from. I pray and hope that this is helpful and that you do not fall into the hands of a puppy scammer.