A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

BBB Trends: Don’t get bit by a puppy scam; you’ll be in a financial doghouse if you aren’t careful

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March 23 is National Puppy Day, and it’s a great time to consider adding a furry friend to the family. There are many things to think about when purchasing a pet – like how to get stains out of the carpet or what valuables to tuck out of the way from being chewed up – but the most important are whether or not your family is ready to take on a full-time commitment. If you are, then make sure to watch out for the puppy scam.

The typical case goes something like this: a scammer will post an online ad that says a new litter of puppies is ready for adoption and includes the contact information of the person supposedly selling them. When you click on the ad, you’re redirected to a page that allows you to settle things with the seller. They’ll insist on communicating by email or text, and won’t offer to meet in person or talk on the phone. Once you state that you’d like to purchase the dog, the scammer will confirm that the puppy is available, ready to ship, and ask you to send money by an untraceable method – usually wire transfer or prepaid card.

A Jack Russell puppy

Depending on what kind of breed they claim the dog to be and what other services they say are included – like insurance, supplies, or veterinary fees – the victims of this scam can lose upwards of $1,200. It’s never all in one transaction but in a series of requests or excuses from the seller until finally, the buyer ends up canceling the transaction realizing it’s a scam.

Even though it’s hard to resist an adorable face and a decent deal, there are a few ways to avoid being put in the doghouse:

• Visit the seller – responsible breeders and reputable rescues are more than happy to offer you a tour and let you see the available puppies in person.

• Check their references – read online reviews and talk to other people who have purchased pets from the place you’re considering to make sure they’re trustworthy.

• Look for website warning signs
– fake puppy sale sites look legitimate because they steal content from other websites. An easy way to spot a duplicate site: copy a line of text from the website and paste it into a search engine.

• Select on site – rather than relying on pictures to pick your perfect pet and waiting on a breeder to send them to you, visit the site and make your choice in person.

• Use a credit card – this offers additional protection if you do make an online purchase. Asking a customer to pay by wire transfer or prepaid card is illegal, and any breeder that pressures you to do so is most likely a scam.

If you lose money to scammers online, be sure to report it to BBB’s Scam Tracker and to the FTC. Picking the perfect pet for your family is exciting, so celebrate National Puppy Day the right way – without scammers. Consider adopting a pet from a rescue shelter; they have lots of older dogs ready to adopt if a puppy isn’t quite your speed. Visit bbb.org for more details on shelters in your area.

Sandra Guile is the Community Outreach Specialist for BBB. She promotes BBB’s message of marketplace ethics through public speaking engagements, presentations, media relations, press releases, web content, and other written materials. Contact Sandra at (513) 639-9126 or sguile@cincinnati.bbb.org. Your BBB is located at 1 East 4th Street Suite 600 Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 – to reach the office, call (513) 421-3015.

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