Old Tricks and A New Type of Online Fraud – How to Not Get Caught in a Puppy Scam

Pictures of cute puppies online don’t just literally make your heart melt, but they can trigger your desire to buy one. Before fast-tracking your way to getting the cuddly dog you fell in love with, beware that online puppy scams have become a recurring and lucrative business.

Due to COVID-19 lockdowns, the demand for dogs, cats, kittens and puppies has significantly increased or even reached record highs in many parts of the world. It was only a matter of time until scammers would have turned this situation to their advantage.

In 2021, puppy scams seem to be one of the most reported fraudulent schemes. And they don’t just empty your pocket but leave you heartbroken too.

If you don’t want to be deceived, learn how these scams emerge so that you won’t be the next victim.

Here’s How People Got Fooled by Puppy Scams

When purchasing a pet, emotions play an essential role, so naturally, scammers exploit buyers’ soft spots. Also, people do most of their shopping online, including for pets, while COVID restrictions made it difficult to check animals in person.

Here’s how puppy scams usually unfold, as victims of these scams reported.

  1. Pet searchers would find credible websites where dog breeders post puppies for sale offers.
  2. They would then text dog breeders, telling them they’re interested.
  3. Interested buyers would receive a reply from the breeder telling them they don’t have any dogs left, but they know someone who does.
  4. Scammers send potential buyers to a fake address right after asking them to make a bank deposit.

The story can even get more complicated as dog breeders would mention they moved from the specified address and then offer to ship the pet to the interested buyer. Clearly, the shipping would require additional payment for handling fees, a dog crate and pet insurance.

Only dog buyers would find out the address for the shipping company is a fake one, and the pet insurance company hasn’t issued any insurance for the pet they wanted. And this would be the awkward moment when people figure out that they got scammed.

Puppy Scams Numbers and Costs

One can say puppy scams are a profitable business, judging by that, on average, victims lose around $4,000 – $5,000. In worse scenarios, this sum can reach $10,000; among the extra payments, scammers would sometimes come up with credible excuses that pets need air-conditioned crates for their shipping. This item costs around $4000 and is one of the clearest sign that you’re dealing with a puppy scam.

In many US states, reported puppy scams reach between $55,000 and $67,000 losses for six months. There have been over 2,500 reports of pet scams in Australia, with losses exceeding $3 million in 2021. By comparison, in 2019, Australians reported only around 500 complaints.

Yet, these people didn’t just lose a big amount of money, precious time and potentially, their trust in ever buying a puppy or a kitten from authentic pet breeders. During the negotiation process, victims have also handed out their personal information like name, phone number, address, and credit card information; and they have no idea to whom they gave them.


5 Tips So You Won’t be Puppy Scammed

Like with any online scam, doing your due diligence is sacred.

Here’s some useful advice, so you don’t fall prey to puppy scammers.

1. Closely inspect the photos

Because scammers usually post photos in their buying offers, take a close look, and thoroughly analyze the photos. If they’re too perfect, including how puppies look, setting and background (like stock photos, really), it’s almost a safe bet it’s a scam.

2. See the puppy live

Always ask to see the dog or kitten in person, not necessarily at the breeder’s property; you can ask to meet in a safe location that you choose. If that’s not possible, request that you see it before buying at least in a video call or virtual meeting.

3. Research the price

The price is too good, or the puppies are even free of charge? This should raise a big question mark, especially if it’s a popular dog or cat breed. That’s why it’s important that you research the typical price range for a specific breed.

4. Ask questions

Once you’ve set a first contact with the breeder, ask additional questions. Even if you’re not truly interested in some details, the breeder’s reply will help you determine if the offer is legit or not. For example, ask details about vaccination, microchipping, what health assurances or paperwork the animal comes with, etc.

5. Stick with your local community

Consider adopting from a local shelter or buying from a breeder close to your home to avoid any risk. This way, even if anything goes wrong, at least you would know where to go and report potential fraud.

Find out more tips on how to stay away from charity scams and how to avoid digital investment scams.


Did you ever find an online offer that seemed to be a fake puppy scam? Or were you ever close to becoming a victim of these frauds?

Let me know in the comments below.

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