BBB warns: Don’t be fooled by a puppy scam

Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at
Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at

Do you love puppies? Stupid question. Of course you love puppies. Who doesn’t? They’re so cute! But don’t let that cuteness blind you to online scammers’ tricks.

Your BBB urges you to be careful when responding to classified ads for pets. Scammers often post ads offering free or inexpensive puppies.

Communicating only through emails, the scammers will claim they are moving to a foreign country and need to “re-home” the puppies.

The scammer might seem sincere, but don’t be fooled. He may say he doesn’t care about money and just wants to find a good home for the beloved puppies. He might try to get information about your identity–phone number, birthday, address–and disguise it as an effort to “get to know who is buying the puppies.”

Eventually the scammer will ask for money–usually via wire transfer or prepaid debit card. If you see these red flags, beware—or you may end up without your money and without a puppy.

BBB offers this advice when considering the purchase of a pet:

  • Do your research. Ask for the breeder’s references. You can also check to see details about complaints against the breeder, advertising issues and other details about the seller.
  • Visit the Breeder First. It is essential to visit the breeder at their home to see the entire litter, the care and conditions given to the puppies prior to purchasing. This will allow you to see if the environment is clean and healthy for the puppies.
  • Beware of breeders who seem overly concerned with getting paid. Any reputable breeder will be far more concerned with the appropriateness of the potential pet home than what and when they are getting paid. Make sure you have clear expectations – ideally in writing – of how and when the pup will be paid for. Be especially wary of any breeder who insists that you wire money or insist you can only pay with a prepaid debit card.
  • Don’t be fooled by a slick website. Dishonest breeders and even outright scams can be represented by professional-looking web sites that lure you in with fraudulent pictures of adorable puppies.
  • Take your time. Beware of breeders who claim to have multiple breeds ready to ship immediately. It’s highly unlikely that your perfect puppy will be available for shipping on the very day you call. Gestation and socialization of a litter takes months–no puppy should be separated from the mom before eight weeks of age.
  • Report a scam. Anyone who has experienced a dog-related scam should report it to their local authorities, as well as your BBB.