Consumers planning to welcome a puppy into their lives this holiday season should keep their wits about them if shopping online for their new addition. Puppy scams are out there, and they can be costly.
“Some ‘sellers’ who advertise online are con artists,” DeWine said. “They post a picture of a cute puppy and tell you to wire money for a crate or insurance. Then they take your money without delivering anything in return. People expect to receive a cute puppy, and instead they get nothing.”
Signs of a puppy scam
At this point, the seller demands more money to pay for things like a temperature-controlled crate, shots, shipping insurance, or other transportation fees. Unfortunately, consumers are unlikely to receive anything in return for their payment.
How to avoid scams
Beware of sellers who request payment in the form of a wire transfer or money order, those who ask you to pay more for unexpected costs, or those who threaten to turn you in for animal abuse or neglect if you don’t pay.
Here’s what else consumers can do to avoid puppy scams:
Research breeders and sellers. Check complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau and review feedback from other customers. If you find no information about the seller, you may be dealing with a scam artist who regularly changes his or her name in order to trick consumers. Ask friends for breeder referrals or try to find a local, reputable organization to work with.
Conduct an online image search. See if the puppy’s photo is posted in multiple places on the internet by doing an online image search (to find out how to do this, search “how to search by image”). If you see the puppy’s photo elsewhere online, it could be part of a scam.
Visit the animal. Don't send money without first seeing the puppy in person. Visit the breeder and ask lots of questions. Make sure the breeder has individual veterinary paperwork for the puppy on the letterhead of his or her veterinarian; consider calling the veterinarian to verify the relationship. Obtain proof of purchase with the breeder’s full contact information on it.
- Adopt, don’t shop. Instead of scouring the web to find your perfect puppy, consider meeting your new best friend at your local animal shelter. Adopting a pet from an animal shelter enables you to meet and interact with your potential pup prior to the adoption.