Puppy Scams Are On The Rise – Here’s How To Avoid Them

Fraudulent “breeders” or “shelters” who swindle hundreds, or even thousands, from dog lovers in search of adopting the perfect pet with fake websites, photos, and worse.

Here’s how the scam works: Sellers list a puppy for sale/adoption on Facebook Marketplace or their own site. Often, they will price these dogs ridiculously low or even offer them for free – the first sign that it’s too good to be true. The seller may use stock photos or reuse other, legitimate breeders’ or shelters’ pictures to lend themselves credibility.

PHOTO: PEXELS / sergio souza

As soon as a potential buyer expresses interest, the seller will start pressing them for credit card details or ask the buyer to submit payment through unusual means (money orders, etc.). This is a second red flag. Genuine sellers or shelters aren’t afraid to process payment through respected third-party sites like Paypal, Stripe, etc.

Needless to say, the dog will never arrive. The seller may even continue to press the buyer to pay for things like an air-conditioned crate during transport, additional medication, and anything else they can convince their mark to send payment for.

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Puppy scams are on the rise. Fraudsters may take to social media, especially Facebook, or set up domain names targeted to dog lovers with names like “majesticlabradorforsale.com” or “labradorpuppiespalace.com” — if you or someone you know is on the lookout for a new pet, avoid sites and sellers that seem too good to be true!

PHOTO: PEXELS / Dominika Roseclay

Covid-19 has only worsened this issue as face-to-face meetings are harder to arrange. To get around this, many recommend trying to set up a Zoom meeting or another way to see your potential pup in action before sending money.

As reported by WXYZ, scammers may also use the pandemic to pull at people’s heartstrings. One example of the scam on Facebook purported to be from someone who’d lost a parent to Covid-19, writing: “Hello guys, Sadly I lost my dad to COVID-19 so I’m giving out his puppies for adoption according to his Will, I’m his only child and I am a doctor at the covid19 emergency unit so I won’t have the time and attention the puppies will need.”

The post included stolen photos from another breeder in an attempt to appear legitimate. According to the news outlet, discussing the fraud, Debbie Devers, President of the Shetland Sheepdog Club of Greater Detroit, said, “That somebody would say they were a doctor and somebody died of COVID, I mean, how to take advantage of people in this day and age!”

PHOTO: PEXELS / Helena Lopes

Of course, the easiest way to avoid a puppy scam, and to make an informed decision about your next pet, is adoption! Local shelters were flooded with requests at the start of the pandemic, especially for puppies, but their numbers have rebounded. Not only are you providing a loving home to an animal in need, but you’re also discouraging overpopulation and the often-inadequate conditions that puppy mills operate in. Those searching for a reputable online place for specialized dogs and breeds can use puppyspot.com, approved by the American Kennel Club.

Just another reason to adopt your pet from a shelter!

As always, use common sense when considering an online purchase. If something doesn’t seem right, follow your instincts before sending any money. For more information on puppy scams and how to avoid them, check out the Puppy Scams Facebook community that is raising awareness! Their mission is “to disrupt their scams as much as possible” by informing consumers, alerting authorities, and more.

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