How to Spot & Avoid Puppy Scams
What Are Puppy Scams?
There is an unfortunate truth in today’s world: Scams are everywhere. Indeed, according to the United States Federal Trade Commission, consumers in America lost $8.8 billion to fraud in 2022. That number is a massive increase of 30% over 2021’s numbers, and it likely represents an undercount of the total money lost to scams. And most of these scams are happening online or via the phone.
Scams extend to all aspects of our lives, including to beloved puppies. As a consumer or someone interested in buying a dog, you need to find a vendor who works only with reputable breeders and has a stellar reputation. At a minimum, you should ensure that any purchase you make is legitiate and ends with you getting the dog you were promised.
Puppy scams are way, way too common. Here’s a look at the most common scams and how to avoid them.
The Most Common Puppy Scams
Fake Website Scam
You’re searching for a puppy, and you find it: An advertisement for the cutest puppy in the world, stellar credentials, and all at a low, low price. You contact the owner and reach an amazing agreement: You can get the puppy of your dreams at a fraction of the cost you were expecting to pay! How great.
Next, you make the payment, and then … nothing. The seller stops responding. You’re now out the money you spent, and there’s no puppy. You try to return to the website, but it completely disappears.
This fake website scam is all too common. Scammers lure you in with cheap prices and take advantage of the too-good-to-be-true offer.
Last-Minute Hidden Fees
Let’s say you connect with a breeder, and everything looks great. You’re interested in getting the puppy, and you get the invoice, and…there’s a surprise fee which wasn’t discussed before.
This is not an outright puppy scam, but a way to overcharge you. The breeder, being unreputable or cunning, tries to increase the price knowing that you have fallen for the puppy and may be willing to overlook it – and they provide no explanation or notification.
That’s a sign of a dishonest vendor, and it should immediately give you pause. All fees should be agreed to before any payments are final, and if anything changes, you need to know why. Avoid buying from such vendors.
“Bump This Post to Find the Owner”
You may have seen this on Facebook before: A picture of a sad, bloodied, and injured dog. The post is usually in a group located in your area and tells the story of a person who found the injured dog, and is looking for the owner.
The post will usually say something like “This dog was found alongside a road and needs help”, and will then make an indiciation to “Please bump this post to help us find the owner.” With nothing but the best of intentions, you and others share the post.
This is a scam. The dog and story aren’t real – but you’ve just shown you are vulnerable to sharing information without checking its source. The scammers will now target you as a high-potential target looking for people to deceive.
Red Flags to Look Out For
If a price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Low prices and bargains are great, but make sure the price seems reasonable. If it is too low – say, $150 – there’s probably a good reason. Breeding and raising a puppy costs money, including food, vaccinations, and vet checks. This can’t be covered by charging an abnormally low price.
Further, all legitimate vendors should be willing to accept standard forms of payment, including a credit card or check. Something is almost certainly off if they are only willing to accept alternative payments, like a Western Union wire or crypto payment.
Hidden or Unusual Fees
As noted above, all fees should be disclosed upfront. Furthermore, fees should be justifiable and have an easy-to-explain purpose. Is the vendor asking you to reimburse them for travel costs or insurance? That’s a perfectly reasonable fee. Are they asking to offset credit card fees? That can be reasonable.
But are they asking for a generic “surcharge” or unexplained fee that makes no sense? That’s a red flag.
Lack of Communication
A vendor should respond quickly to any request or communication, and they should be willing to talk with you over normal lines of communication. If they are slow in responding or insist on talking over apps that allow for messages to disappear, you may want to think twice before completing any purchase.
Also, if the phone number redirects to Google Voice, this can be a sign of an overseas scammer that is using an American or Canadian virtual phone number. So keep an eye out for that, too.
No Meeting or Travel Arrangements
Before finalizing payment, make sure to finalize any meeting or travel arrangements. These arrangements should be appropriately detailed, and your meeting location should be easy to find.
If a vendor does not mention those plans but insists on getting payment, something sketchy may be up. After all, if a vendor is looking to scam you, they certainly don’t care about finalizing a meeting or travel arrangement.
How Do I Avoid Puppy Scams?
Puppy scams - like all other consumer scams - can be easy to fall into. Fortunately, there’s good news: You can avoid becoming a scammer’s victim with some due diligence and rules of thumb to follow.
Research the Seller
Legitimate breeders should be able to discuss the breed line with you, review potential positives and negatives, and show any licensing paperwork. They should adhere to AKC guidelines for responsible breeding and be able to prove anything they say about the dog they want to sell.
You should be able to verify this information and any claims the breeder makes. A lack of information on a breeder doesn’t guarantee you are being scammed – but it may be a red flag and is worth investigating further.
Check the Reviews
Vendors should be willing and able to provide reviews and testimonials from happy customers. Google the name of the breeder or the name of their business. You can also check out their rating on websites like Trustpilot or the Better Business Bureau.
If you can’t find anything, think twice.
Check Credentials & Guarantees
Breeders should have appropriate guarantees and licensing on the pets they breed, including licensure, kennel registrations, or health guarantees. This ensures that the pet you purchase meets the right standards.
Some vendors, like Mawoo Pets, also offer a health guarantee, protecting your puppy’s health and showing that they stand behind the puppies they sell.
Use a Credit Card
Scammers don’t like credit cards because credit card payments are easier to track, reverse, and place a chargeback on.
From a consumer perspective, using a credit card can protect you from further fraud. It can also deny a scammer access to more valuable and sensitive financial information, which a bank account can provide them.
Don’t Be Pressured
“Better hurry – I’ve got a lot of interested buyers!”
“This puppy is so cute that it will be gone by the end of the day – pay now!”
These messages tug at your heartstrings and induce pressure. Don’t let them. A confident, reputable breeder doesn’t need to pressure you into purchasing a puppy. This tactic is only used by breeders trying to force a deal, which may not even be a legitimate one.
Watch Out for Communication Skills
Many scammers don’t even live in the United States or Canada, and their English skills may be very limited. Laws regarding consumer protection are often harder to enforce overseas, and it can be difficult to track someone who lives in a different country.
A telltale sign of a scammer is that they speak or write in broken or inappropriate English. This may be because English is their second language, or they use a tool like Google Translate to communicate with you. Either way, if someone doesn’t seem to have the best command of the English language, use caution. It may be a scam.
Consider Financing Methods
Many reputable vendors allow you to pay in installments or to use financing plans. Financing is often provided by 3rd party lenders which have vetted the vendor’s legitimacy. As such, using financing is a way to be sure that you are working with a vetted seller.
At Mawoo Pets, we offer a Buy Now, Pay Later option through three different lenders. This can be a legitimate way of ensuring people can buy the pet of their dreams at an affordable price.
Buy From the Best
You deserve the best dog that money can buy. That means reputable breeders who sell the highest-quality dogs at affordable prices. At Mawoo Pets, we’re deeply proud of our work and work with you to find you the pet of your dreams. Check out our website to learn more about what dogs we are offering, and find the perfect puppy for your home.
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