Over twenty million people in the United States have viewed the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to bless their households with the presence of a new furry family member. As is common practice in today’s society, many people turned to the internet to adopt or purchase their new companions. And while this was an easy and effective route for some, many others were scammed out of their hard-earned money by individuals posing as reputable puppy breeders or sellers.
And what’s worse than the loss of money is that these hopeful pet owners lost access to a new best friend. They had fallen in love with a puppy that might never have existed. Those who had fallen victim to such scams were left to feel the harsh stings of devastation and anger.
For every honest breeder, there is a scammer just around the corner waiting to rob hopeful pet lovers of money, time, and joy. However, those who begin their search armed with the knowledge of common puppy scams and how to avoid them can protect themselves from the same suffering fate.
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What Exactly Is A Puppy Scam?
A puppy scam occurs when an individual advertises the sale of a puppy that is either, in truth, unavailable or non-existent. And while you, reader, may not have come face-to-face with this particular form of trickery, an alarming number of Americans have.
In fact, a study performed by the Better Business Bureau reported that 80% of paid advertisements that appear in an internet search for puppy breeders might be nearly fraudulent. And while people of all age groups have fallen victim to these convincing scams, studies show that those in their late teens to early twenties are targeted most.
“It is not difficult to understand why the scheme is so pervasive in the US – and so successful,” says the Better Business Bureau. “Pet ownership is extremely popular and the selection and purchase of a pet is viewed as the first step toward bringing a new, and beloved member, into the family. Pets offer companionship and comfort and a new puppy or kitten can quickly become a center point in the life of its owner.”
Tallied estimates of fraudulent puppy sellers have reached an all-time high, with hundreds of reports flooding in daily all across the country. And since fraud victims, statistically, don’t take the time to file complaints with their governing officials, these numbers speak for themselves:
“Sixty percent of these reports indicated the consumers never received the pets they purchased,” says the American Kennel Club, “and others received pets that had health or genetic problems and did not receive documentation for their pet.”
How Can I Spot A Puppy Scam?
There are several red flags that will enable a person to distinguish a reputable breeder or seller from a scammer. For instance, if a seller insists on communicating only via e-mail or text and will not answer your phone calls. If a seller hesitates to even provide you with a contact number, they might be a scammer.
In addition, buyers are always encouraged to abide by this age-old proverb: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you see a puppy for sale, especially a purebred, at an incredibly low price, it is most likely a scam. Quality breeders will price their pups according to their actual worth. Another tell-tale sign of a scammer involves their payment request.
If a breeder asks that you pay in a way that is not secure, such as by money wire, mobile payment apps, or gift cards, they might be a scammer. Experts recommend that you only perform high-value transactions in a traceable way, such as via PayPal or credit card, if possible.
Another trick that scammers will often employ is the use of stock photos. If your breeder is unable or unwilling to send you a picture or video of your specific pet, they may be a scammer. For this reason, experts recommend seeing your pet in person before purchasing.
How Can I Avoid A Puppy Scam When I Am Buying Online?
There are several ways to avoid puppy scams once armed with the proper knowledge and methods for success. One such method is to meet the seller in person whenever possible.
If an in-person meeting is too difficult to arrange, then experts recommend that you arrange a phone or video call. It is important to ensure that your seller is who they say they are.
Another tip for validating your seller is to ask for proof. A responsible, reliable breeder should have no problem providing information on the puppy’s lineage, parents, and health condition. In fact, the most responsible breeders are thrilled when they get an opportunity to educate about their favorite breed.
“A good breeder is one who studies, reads, watches, and learns from other longtime breeders,” says the American Kennel Club, “and who breeds responsibly and carefully for a number of years before they can be considered a “successful breeder.”
If you are purchasing your future pup from a licensed breeder, he or she should come with documentation. Even family breeders who do not register with the American Kennel Club should be able to provide you with veterinary and vaccine records.
The Better Business Bureau “urges the public to be on guard against online puppy scams; inspect an animal in person before paying money, and pay by credit card if you do make an online purchase. Also, potential buyers often can detect fraud by an internet search of the picture of the pet. If the same picture appears on other sites you may be dealing with a fraud.”
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One final word of advice for puppy shoppers is to be patient. If a seller you meet online is pushing you to pay immediately, they may be a scammer. Most reputable breeders will want to vet their potential customers prior to sale, ensuring that the puppy goes to a safe and loving home. Purchasing a puppy is a long process, generally spanning several months.
Equipped with expert knowledge and tips for success, you can avoid falling victim to a puppy scam. If we all ban together to keep one another safe from sneaky scammers, perhaps we can rid the world of them for good!