It’s an unfortunate thing but it occurs all too often. People have come out in the droves looking for ways to scam others out of their hard-earned money. When it comes to puppies, scammers know one universal truth—buyers are emotionally invested.

As a breeder, I have had sad encounters over the years with many well-meaning and trusting individuals and families looking for their new furry family member who had fallen prey to a scammer. They come to me on guard and suspicious (and rightly so) of any and all prospects. My hope is to educate on the various ways that these scammers operate and how to protect yourself.

The Scammers

As an individual who looks to acquire outside dogs to add to my breeding program on occasion, I have personally seen these scammers in action. You must understand that the people who do these scams do not care that they could be taking your last $100, or that the intended puppy is for a disabled child, or that you will seek out lawful intervention. Scammers are brazen and even absurdly ruthless.

In my experience there are three main types of scammers:

1. The occasional breeder who has less than a professional business sense.

2. An unscrupulous person that has haphazardly/accidentally bred their dog.

And finally…

3. The worst and most likely scammer, one who has NO dog to offer.

The last two are particularly easy to spot. They have zero breeding experience or common dog knowledge. These will always advertise on fake websites and classifieds, the main of which is Craigslist. The reason for this is that it is highly preferred for its lack of regulation. There’s no way to tell who is placing the ad and actually, these scammers can operate from another country.

Scammers in Action

Puppy scammers may have pictures to show and may even have a video (though unlikely) but that by no means that there is an actual dog in their possession. When a picture is posted on the internet it is up for all the world to see. A scammer need only to google a puppy pic and merely place an ad with it. *As a tip to breeders and to individuals not wishing this to happen to their photos I suggest using a watermark.

Scammers will also operate from false websites. These will often look professionally done, though some are outright suspicious. They may have many misspellings or have pictures and content that has not been updated regularly.

A simple ad from a scammer may be a bit harder to discern because many people legitimately choose to find homes for their pets this way. The ads will often be short, simple, too good to be true, and even poorly written. Upon response you are also likely to find that the individual lacks cohesive communication, is ‘placing the ad for someone else’, or the communication feels ‘off’.

When it comes time to exchange the money for the puppy dog, the scammer will often say that they have other parties interested and need the deposit (or even the full amount) asap. They will not likely provide more pictures or will ‘conveniently’ be unavailable for immediate pickup, or unable to accept visits to the puppy dog ahead of a money transfer, or they will not allow the pup to be transported without money upfront. And while all these things may be applicable to someone who is upfront and not running a scam, there are a few things you can do to be sure.

What You Can Do

First, and probably most difficult, don’t let your emotions get the best of you. It is important to listen to your gut; emotions can cloud good judgment. If a scammer perceives vulnerability or desperate behavior, then that gives them something to exploit. Try to stay clear-headed and realize that even IF the person is legitimate, there’s no guarantee that they’ll place their pup with you. I’ve seen people go back on their agreement, accept higher offers, choose to keep their dog, or for some inexplicable reason drop communications. If this happens, consider yourself lucky to have dodged a bullet and realize that your furry mate is out there and waiting for you.

If there is a website, check its validity. Google the kennel’s name or the name of the breeder. You’re looking for bad reviews on the kennel or breeder or the website, or information listed that legitimizes the site or name. Be sure to do some footwork, there are countless kennels out there, some with similar or the same names. If a poor review is found, make sure to verify it is the same kennel or breeder you’re researching. Be sure to look at the web addresses that offer reviews so that they aren’t directly found within the website of the kennel itself. Anyone can give themselves a good review on their own website. Links to social media found within the website gives more content with which to gauge legitimacy.

My next bit of advice sounds counterproductive but be a tad annoying. I don’t mean blow up their number or email with a stalker’s zeal, I mean ask questions. Ask as many questions as you like. A person who truly cares where their puppy or rehomed dog is going will appreciate the time and care you take to understand the dog and the situation. A breeder will happily answer questions about the parents and their breeding program. A person looking to rehome their dog is ideally not about the money but wants to make sure that YOU are a good fit. They will hopefully encourage a meet and greet, particularly with any other animals you have in the home (which I highly suggest if this is an older dog you’re hoping to acquire).

Questions For You to Ask

1. Why are you rehoming your dog? Many people who are dealing with an unruly dog will say that they have to move, the landlord says no, having a baby, etc. My advice is that I would be leery of anyone using the term ‘getting rid of’ or ‘has to go’ in an ad or response. Though this may still be a good fit, it is likely a dog that has some issues that need addressing that the owner can’t or won’t handle. Go into it with the expectation that any and every dog will require training and your time, if you’re unable to offer that then please do the puppy dog a favor and not be one more home it has to leave.

2. What vaccinations has the puppy dog had? If the answer is along the lines of ‘none’ or ‘I’m not sure’ I’d politely forgo this dog. You have no idea what immunity if any that this dog has and what it could currently carrying. I have had far too many buyers come to me after expensive vet bills from sickly dogs, or worse a puppy that died because of such. I’d also go one step further and ask to see their shot record and verify by the vet if available. Though a breeder may choose to vaccinate on their own (which is acceptable) they should still be able to offer dated records. Rabies must be done by a licensed vet, all pups over the age of 6 months are ready to have one.

3. Is the puppy dog spayed or neutered? Spaying and neutering are going to run about $400+ depending on the vet. Consider this a necessary expenditure of a responsible owner. Please spay and neuter your dog. Unless you’re a responsible breeder who plans to health test and does much due diligence to better the breed and offers quality dogs, you inadvertently add to the puppy scam problem. *Please note that puppies should NOT be fixed prior to 6 months of age. Any breeder doing this is actually causing harm to their puppies by impeding the essential organ/bone/tissue growth and maturity that takes place that requires those hormones to be present.

4. May I Facetime/Facebook messenger call? Ok, so maybe someone may not have time immediately, but if the answer is no indefinitely then I would run. In the off chance that this person was actually able to place an ad and yet still has no access to the tech to offer a video call then ask the next question. (Personally, I’d ask it anyway)

5. May I have more pictures? More specifically, I’d ask for a picture of the puppy with an item such as a remote, can of soda, pretty much anything that tells you that the puppy dog is there and is real. I would also HIGHLY suggest that you do a reverse lookup on any pics from the ad and that you further receive to find their origin.

6. May I see the parents in a video? The main idea here is to confirm that the parents are in good health, cared for, express personality traits that you like, and that you can see what your pup will likely look like as an adult. This is a great question for breeders as well. Speaking of which…

Questions to Specifically Ask a Breeder

In addition to the questions listed above, this is a list of questions to ask that are breeder specific. A pup purchased from a breeder is likely to cost far more than a pup that is being rehomed by an individual. However, the only reason that these pups should have a higher fee is because of more money put into proper breeding and rearing. As such, these dogs should come with a standard of requirements that all responsible breeders will have performed and will happily share. A great breeder will be grateful that a potential family will be informed enough to answer the following questions.

1. Do you have references? If a breeder fails to provide any I would politely say ‘thanks, but no thanks’. Any breeder who has previously placed their pups with a family should care enough to follow up with and remain responsible for those pups. The references will be able to verify their experience overall with the breeder as well as their (and your future) pup’s look, health, temperament.

2. May I see health testing and do you offer a health guarantee? A responsible breeder will provide this and if not, may I ask you to consider a rescue? Why pay more for a dog you have no guarantee of a standard for health and temperament? You will also need to do your due diligence; if you don’t know how to read what they send you I would call the genetics lab where the tests are from to assist. Also, pay attention to the NAME of the animal tested to make sure it matches up.

3. Do you have a website or social media profile I can check out? A responsible breeder I would work with will at least have posted on a social media platform, preferably with good reviews and many followers. Social media profiles are fraudulently set up by scammers. These may have many posts but hardly any followers. Please look at the year the account was set up and what the dates are on the posts. An account that is fairly new, few followers, and many posts made only recently (such as nothing prior to a few weeks ago or all posts were posted on the same day or a couple of days) screams FRAUD.

4. Why did you choose to breed the parents of the puppy? A responsible answer will address health, temperament, basically, anything that ‘betters the breed’, and may include appearance. But if appearance is the only response, that is simply not good enough.

A Final Word

Do not EVER send anyone your credit card info. Never send a check (this allows access to bank account info), cash, or money order to someone you don’t know. There are many ways that legitimate breeders and people wishing to rehome their puppy dog may use as forms of payment which include Paypal, Venmo, Zelle, and Square. Cash may be agreeable to both parties but obviously offers less protection. May I suggest that if you are dealing with someone you are unsure of, has not provided any references, or if you desire a most secure form of payment, then consider using the commerce Paypal or pay through an invoice directly through Square. The breeder/seller should always provide a bill of sale or receipt of payment/deposit that is both signed and dated.

If in the unfortunate circumstance you have been scammed or for more info about scams this link may help… https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2019/pet.html

Good luck to you in your puppy search!