Avoiding Online Puppy Purchasing Scams

Avoiding Online Puppy Purchasing Scams

by Leslie Freeland, April 26, 2018

Don’t Buy That Puppy!

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The sophistication of online puppy scams is depressingly advanced, and equally disturbing is the number of kind-hearted pet lovers who are conned each year. People looking to adopt are often strongly motivated by the desire to help out an animal who needs a home, but rather than trust reputable websites such as Petfinder, they are tempted by an offer of a puppy that sounds unbelievable – and it usually is.

The simplest solution? Don’t buy a puppy online.

If you see an ad that says ‘French Bulldog available for $500, quick sale required. Pay through money transfer, will ship animal promptly,’ alarm bells should ring.
If a car that advertised itself as in great condition but was available for much less than the market value, you would be cautious. If that same vehicle couldn’t be viewed and would require payment with a method that was difficult to trace, you would question if it even had an engine – or whether it existed beyond the pictures.

Reasons to think it’s a scam

* “Free to good home” ads that tell you to pay for shipping

A quick search on reputable sites will show you that the market price for the French Bulldog described above is about $3,000. Pedigree dogs rarely go for free or discount prices. Fraudsters will often ask for fees that start small but escalate quickly. Scammers aren’t satisfied with conning a few hundred dollars from their victims, and most will insist on extra payments until the buyer becomes suspicious.

* Seller insists on shipping – no in-person visits

In nearly all fraud cases, the scammers avoid in-person meetings with potential buyers and often ask victims to send money to a ‘third party’ who will transport the animal from a remote location. The fraudsters will usually claim that the pet is urgently waiting at the airport, needs special insurance or medical care, and then threaten the potential buyer with criminal prosecution for ‘animal abandonment’ unless they receive more money.

* All communication happens through email or text, not phone calls

This is often because the fraudsters want to conceal their identity.

* Charged unexpected “pet insurance” fees

You’ve already paid for the puppy, but just before shipping, you get a call demanding extra money for ‘pet insurance.’ At this point, send no more money as this is almost certainly a scam.

The 3 best ways to protect yourself: 

* Always visit in person (even if it’s a few hours away)

Put a face to a name by visiting the pet’s current home. If anything goes badly with the transaction, you can choose to not go through with the sale. And better yet, you get to to see the actual puppy before purchasing.

* Never send money order payments or transfers, for example by Western Union

Most legitimate businesses or organizations would never use these services to receive money. The lack of traceability, especially over borders, makes Western Union or MoneyGram the friend of scammers and the enemy of accountability. It’s worth noting that it’s illegal to request or receive money through MoneyGram, Western Union or a stored value card for the sale of a product over the telephone in the US.

* Pay with credit card whenever possible

Credit cards offer you perhaps the best insurance for payments and are far more easily traced than money transfers.

Shutting down fake breeder websites

The organization, Pet Scams, is fighting the good fight on behalf of pet lovers by shutting down fake websites. Many websites are produced to look similar to real ones. If you’re unsure, contact Pet Scams, and ask them to investigate fraudulent websites.

Adopt with confidence, care and do it locally

Petfinder is an online database where animal lovers can search for adoptees. With a large directory of animal shelters and adoption organizations. Petfinder also offers discussion forums, a pet-care resource directory and a wealth of free pet-care articles to help keep animals in their homes.


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This information is provided for general consumer educational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax or investment advice.


Leslie Freeland

Leslie Freeland

Marketing Communications Coordinator at Asurea
Leslie joined Asurea as the Marketing Communications Coordinator in February 2015. Since then, she has been working closely with insurance professionals to educate the public on the importance of life insurance and protect the public from common scams with informational articles.
Leslie Freeland

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