How do I buy a puppy online without getting scammed? A Complete Guide

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Puppy buying is at an all-time high — so it’s no surprise that you may be on the search for a new dog right now. But the truth is, as puppy buying rises, so do puppy scams.

In today’s digital world, almost everyone uses the internet for shopping, including finding a new puppy! Don’t worry — it’s easy to spot puppy scams online if you’re aware of the red flags to look for. And it’s even easier to find a good breeder when you know what questions to ask. Here’s everything you need to know before starting your online puppy search.

Puppy scammers post fake litters online or pretend to be someone they’re not (usually an existing breeder) to take advantage of puppy sales (sans the puppies.) This means that if you aren’t careful, you could find the perfect puppy, send the ‘breeder’ your money, and never receive a puppy or any follow-up communication in return.

While many times these fake listings appear on websites like Craigslist, some scammers find ways to position themselves as reputable breeders by stealing personal info from them.

Luckily, it’s easy to know what to look for to ensure your puppy buying experience is both safe and enjoyable.

  • No phone calls. The seller prefers to handle communication by email and not the phone. A reputable breeder will always communicate with you via phone or video chat (if not in person) before selling you a puppy. Fraudulent sellers are oftentimes outside of the U.S. and may be hiding their phone number by only communicating by email.
  • Copycat or stock photos. Photos of the dog or ad text can be found on multiple websites. Search for the text in the listing to see if the seller copied and pasted it from another site.
  • Sketchy payment. The seller asks for wiring of money or payment by gift cards. Be aware that if you choose a non-secure method of payment, it is highly unlikely that you will get your money back. Avoid paying a stranger using apps such as Venmo, as it is harder to get your money back if you don’t get what you paid for. Paying by credit card or PayPal are typically the safest options.
  • Price is too good to be true. Research the prices for the breed you are considering ahead of time. Purebred dogs sold at deeply discounted prices are typically frauds. If the seller says they register their dogs with a specific organization, you can call the organization to confirm.
  • Breeder “badges.” AKC does not distribute badges to breeders.
  • How do I buy a puppy online without getting scammed?

    Key Findings:

  • From January 1, 2021, to October 31, 2021, there were 3,000 puppy scams reported – 165% more puppy scams in the U.S. than during the same time period in pre-pandemic 2019.
  • California reported 345 cases making it the #1 state with the most reported puppy scams.
  • California lost over a quarter of a million dollars to puppy scams, with the average money lost per victim totaling $733.69.
  • Texas, Florida, and New York follow closely behind, with scam victims in these states on average losing more than $700, though Texas stands out with its $913.20 total.
  • Michigan has the most money lost per fraud. Scam victims lost on average $1,097 in this state.
  • Regarding the number of scams per 100K people, Montana tops the list at 1.94 cons per 100,000 residents.
  • Colorado, Arizona, Virginia, and Washington are the only states in the Top 15 for most puppy scams overall and the Top 15 for most reported puppy scams per 100,000 people.
  • The most obvious way to avoid a puppy scam? Don’t purchase a pet online. However, there are other steps you can take to make sure you don’t get scammed.

    We’re strong advocates for adoption. There are many shelters and organizations you can adopt through, and if you need a recommendation, ask your vet, family, friends, and neighbors.

    How do I buy a puppy online without getting scammed?

    Just because a dog is in a shelter doesn’t mean they come with “baggage.” Many dogs wind up in shelters because the owner is moving and can’t take the dog with them. The dog was found and never claimed. Adopting a dog was too much responsibility for the owner. And other reasons that have nothing to do with the dog’s behavior.

    If a purebred or specific breed is your heart’s desire, don’t be deterred from adopting. Many dogs need adoption, and some rescue groups are dedicated to finding homes for specific breeds or purebreds.

    If you have your heart set on a purebred dog, but you aren’t finding one through a shelter, you want to make sure you’re buying from a legitimate breeder. (Take a look at this PDF from the Humane Society about finding a responsible dog breeder.) Legitimate dog breeders provide quality vet care for the animals, food, and sanitary kenneling.

    Many unprofessional breeders are trying to make extra cash but are unwilling to put in the time and money to breed good purebreds. It’s expensive to raise well-bred purebreds; therefore, they cost more to buy.

    Finding a Reliable Breeder Online

    Co-authored by:

    To buy a puppy online safely, make sure you go through a reputable breeder with good references. Be careful searching on free classifieds like Craigslist since scammers are more likely to post on them. If an ad for a dog seems poorly written or too good to be true, theres a good chance its a scam. Also, never send someone money through an unsecured wire transfer service, like Western Union or MoneyGram, since you wont be able to get your money back if its a scam. For more tips from our Veterinarian co-author, like how to find a reputable breeder, read on!

  • Stacey Weaver “Not buying with MoneyGram helped. I avoided a scam!”
  • How to not get scammed when buying a puppy! (Online)

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    Pandemic lockdowns and working from home led to a boom in people wanting to add a pet to their household. It was good for pets needing homes, but a heyday for scammers.

    There are two ways would-be pet owners get scammed, says John Goodwin, senior director of the Stop Puppy Mills campaign for the Humane Society of the United States. Either the pet simply doesn’t exist, or it does but its history or health has been misrepresented.