How to Spot a Puppy Scam Online

Puppy buying is at an all-time high — so it’s no surprise that you may be on the search for a new dog right now. But the truth is, as puppy buying rises, so do puppy scams.

Puppy scammers post fake litters online or pretend to be someone they’re not (usually an existing breeder) to take advantage of puppy sales (sans the puppies.) This means that if you aren’t careful, you could find the perfect puppy, send the ‘breeder’ your money, and never receive a puppy or any follow-up communication in return.

What is a Puppy Scam?

What are the Red Flags?

The seller prefers to handle communication by email and not the phone. 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 may be hiding their phone number by only communicating by email.

No phone calls

Photos of the dog or ad text can be found on multiple websites. Search for the text in the listing to see if the seller copied and pasted it from another site.

Copycat or stock photos

The seller asks for wiring of money or payment by gift cards. Be aware that if you choose a non-secure method of payment, it is highly unlikely that you will get your money back.

Sketchy payment

Research the prices for the breed you are considering ahead of time. Purebred dogs sold at deeply discounted prices are typically frauds. If the seller says they register their dogs with a specific organization, you can call the organization to confirm.

Price is too good to be true

According to BBB data, nearly 10,000 scam reports and complaints have come in during the last three years about “businesses” selling puppies and dogs. The FTC estimates that only about 10 percent of victims report these crimes, so this number could be much higher.

How Many People Have Been Affected by Puppy Scams?

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.

How Can I Safely Find a Breeder or Puppy Seller Online?