Sadly, over the course of the past few years, the number of puppy scams appears to have increased dramatically, and we have been contacted by too many people seeking a breeder they can trust after being scammed. Scammers make life hard not only for you, but for us as well. So, we would like to offer some advice for avoiding puppy scams with the tips and things to watch out for listed below.1. If the breeder does not maintain a dedicated website, beware! Websites give you a static location with which to maintain contact, and contact is key!
2. Regarding #1, recently I have seen some very nice "websites" run by scammers. So, even a dedicated website is not a guarantee that you're not looking at a scammer anymore. However, the one thing that all of these websites have in common is that you will not find a phone number anywhere on them. They have only contact forms. Websites of legitimate breeders may have contact forms on them, but they will also have phone numbers so you can call and speak with the breeder. Any real breeder will not only be happy to speak with you, but will, in fact, require it so they can get to know you before placing a puppy with you.
3. Along those same lines, the more contact options you have for the breeder the better. If you only have a single form of contact, especially if it is NOT a phone number, beware! Most legitimate breeders have a phone number and an email address at a minimum.
4. Similarly, beware of those who rarely answer the phone, do not return messages in a timely manner and/or want to use texting as the only means of communication. Something is up with these folks! Legitimate breeders answer emails and phone messages quickly, and while they may also use text as a form of communication, they are happy to speak with you anytime you call.
5. Beware of those who want you to send money via Western Union and other similar methods. Real, ethical breeders will use secure payment options that offer buyer's protection, like PayPal and other similar online payment platforms.
6. Though there are many new forms of electronic payment available, including CashApp, Venmo and others, you should be aware that these apps are not really designed as business applications. They offer no support or recourse for those who have been scammed/had money stolen while trying to get a puppy. I hear this happening more and more. A scammer accepts only Venmo, and when the buyer realizes that he has been scammed and calls Venmo customer support, he is told that they can do nothing to get his money back. So, beware of those who accept only Venmo or CashApp as payment.
7. BEWARE of anyone trying to sell a puppy for much less money (or even similar prices) than others are, and offering free shipping. Finding a puppy is not like ordering on Amazon. We don't usually have free shipping (though I do sometimes offer my returning clients free shipping as a thank you for their loyalty). Most of the time, transport costs for puppies are not negotiable, and the airlines are raising their rates for animal transport pretty routinely right now. Those people who are asking $500 for a puppy with free shipping are scammers every time. We charge a minimum of $350 for transport costs, and we make absolutely nothing on that. We only charge what it costs us to do it, and in some circumstances, the transport has cost us even more than what we charged for it. So, there is no possibility that you're getting the deal of a lifetime with these people. What you'll get is scammed! If it sounds to good to be true, trust me, it is!!
8. The newest scam I've heard of is sending electronic gift cards as payment or partial payment for a puppy? There are a variety of ways that scammers pull this particular scam off, so let's just say that if you run across someone who wants you to send a gift card or who wants to send you a gift card, stay away from those people. No legitimate breeder will ever deal in gift cards.
9. Beware of those who won't or say they cannot send you more pictures when requested. It is not always convenient for us to try to get more pictures of an active puppy, but a legitimate breeder will happily do so when requested. If the breeder cannot or is not willing to provide new pictures of a puppy, that is definitely a red flag!
10. If you are unsure about someone, do not be afraid to require them to provide proof that they do have the puppy in their possession. One of the best ways to do this is to ask them to take pictures of the puppy with a piece of paper that says the current date on it. If the breeder will not provide this for you, that is a sign of a problem! I will offer to facetime with my prospective clients so that they can see me and the puppy in real time.
11. Remember, scammers generally post their fake puppy listings on the same sites that legitimate breeders use, especially the sites that allow for free listings. While most sites do everything they can to eliminate scammers, it is nearly impossible to catch them all. So, try to stick to sites that require breeders to pay to list their puppies, like PuppyFind and Next Day Pets. Scammers may still have listings there, but are less likely to pay to list puppies. Also, paid sites are more likely to work harder to eliminate scammers.
13. There is another word of caution that I would like to include here, though it is not technically a scam. There are several websites (or it might be just one that keeps changing its name) out there that list puppies from breeders and sell them for the breeders as a type of referral service. While not technically a scam, these website are not particularly ethical either. First, breeders and puppy owners generally are not allowed to make contact. That, in and of itself, is a huge red flag! Potential owners phone in and speak to contact center representatives who know absolutely nothing about the puppy, its parents or the breed. So, when you purchase from these sites, you are NOT talking to an expert in your breed like you would be if you were speaking with a reputable breeder. Next, these websites mark the prices of puppies WAY up...most of the time listing them at double, triple or even more what they pay the breeders for them. Even worse, I have heard of them charging double or triple for shipping costs too, without telling the buyer that shipping was included in the original price. The site then pockets all of this extra money and generally keeps more of the money than is sent to the breeder, while doing none of the work. Finally, I have heard of scenarios where the website representatives lied to both the breeder and the buyer to charge more for the puppy and for shipping, none of which was forwarded to the breeder. There are many of these sites, but the two most prominent that come up in my searches are Puppy Spot and Purebred Breeders, which actually may be the same site using different names (a BIG red flag). The best way to recognize these sites is to look at the phone numbers. Most reputable breeders do not use toll-free numbers (numbers that begin with 800, 866, 877 etc.). You should be aware that you can find the exact same puppies for much more reasonable pricing if you look at Puppy Find or just dig a little more to find the breeder's own website!
Recently, I was contacted by someone who believed that she had reseved one of my puppies. Unfortunately, she had sent her money to a scammer posing as me. They gave her my website information and everything. She could have avoided this scam had she called the number on the website to speak to me first, but she didn't. She just sent the money via Cash App after only messaging with the person. She was not able to get her money back. So, the less on once again is ALWAYS call and speak with the breeder. If you cannot get the breeder on the phone, DO NOT move forward. It is almost definitely a scam.
This list of tips is based on information I have gathered from those who have contacted me for a puppy after being scammed by someone else. I will update it as more information becomes available.