Puppy Scams: Top Tips to Stay Safe

puppy for sale chewing on red ball

“Puppies for sale”. Those three words can be hard to resist for someone looking to add some big puppy dog eyes to their family. But with online puppy scams on the rise, doing your background research is vital.

Once you’ve done your due diligence you can buy a puppy with confidence.

2020 has been a year none of us will forget in a hurry. A global pandemic, catastrophic bushfires, turbulent elections… But a lesser known 2020 curveball is the rise of online puppy scams. So, what’s with that?

Well, this year there’s been a dramatic surge in the number of people adopting dogs. From forced lockdowns to ongoing work-from-home arrangements, it seems lots of people have decided their lifestyle now supports pet ownership.

Considering adding a new pet to your family? Be sure you’ve factored in the hidden costs first, by reading our ‘real price of new pets’ article here. And consider the pros and cons of purebred dogs before you go straight to Google in search of a pedigreed Labrador.

Puppy scams aplenty

Unfortunately, online opportunists lurk among the happy snaps of smiling families playing outside with roly-poly puppies. The rise in demand for puppies has provided increased prospecting potential for these puppy scammers.

In Australia, more than $300,000 has been lost to online puppy scams so far this year. The government has even issued official warnings. Join any dog enthusiast Facebook group and you’ll soon see a conversation about it.

While not limited to specific breeds, puppy scams often target small, popular and expensive breeds like French bulldogs and Schnauzers. Both breeds consistently appear on most popular dog breeds in Australia lists based off data from the Australian National Kennel Council.

Aussie social media groups centred around popular breeds are regularly removing posts from suspected puppy scammers trying to sell non-existent animals.

So how do you keep yourself safe from scammers when looking for your next dog?

How to spot puppy scams

While puppy scam tactics can vary, there are patterns with how scammers operate. The following may be signs you’re dealing with one when you’re researching puppies for sale.

  • Pets are sold on Facebook and classified sites. These are two of the preferred platforms used by puppy scammers, but some do go to the trouble of creating bogus websites.
  • Free pet – you just pay “freight”. There’ll be some reason why the freebie offerer can’t keep the ‘beloved’ pet… Family hardship, death of the pet’s owner, relocation, etc. All you have to pay is the airline transport fee for the dog to be delivered to you.
  • Free email account. They’ll use a free email service provider like Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc. Legitimate breeders are more likely to use email addresses pertaining to their website, eg [email protected]
  • You can’t pick the puppy up in person. Initially, scammers offer the pet in a location close to you, which is how they get your attention in the first place. But then there’ll be some reason why they’ve relocated far away, where you cannot visit or collect the animal in person. They tell you they’ll have to send the pet via animal courier.
  • Untraceable payment methods. Scammers often want payment via Western Union or a similarly untraceable service. They might tell you to lie to the Western Union representative, saying that you’re transferring money to family rather than buying something.
  • Inconsistencies in language, dates, names etc. Liars need good memories to cover their tracks completely. Look for inconsistencies in your correspondence: from the company name, to dates, details about the puppy, details about the pup’s parents, and so on.
  • Spelling and grammatical errors. If their correspondence is full of errors, that’s a red flag. Legitimate breeders take the time to create a professional impression.
  • Unable to be contacted on the phone. Don’t buy a puppy from anyone who won’t take the time to answer your questions in detail over the phone. If they’re only available via email or text, that’s not a good sign.  
  • More money needed. Once you’ve made the initial payment, there may be some reason why you need to pay more. The animal needs a specific crate, they need insurance, a health inspection etc. This is a common tactic of online puppy scammers.

Think about whether everything the “seller” is saying makes sense and can’t have holes poked in it. Listen to your gut too. And remember, whatever puppy you choose, you want to buy responsibly and ethically. So check out our article on avoiding puppy mills and finding a reputable breeder too.

rottweiler puppy is ready to start socialising and training

Found the perfect new dog for your family?

So, you’ve avoided puppy scams and found the right breeder (pssst, we can also help if wondering how to tell if a dog is purebred). Fantastic! Now it’s time to buy a puppy after reading our tips on how to do this. Then, you can happily then bring home your stupidly adorable fur baby. Congratulations!

The next step is to make sure they’re protected with quality pet insurance. PD Insurance offers affordable plans to suit your new animal’s health needs, and if you’re renting you might even find our third party liability coverage a plus. Get started by checking out our dog insurance plans here

Also take the time to read our dog adoption checklist article here to help you be the nest new pet parent possible.

How would you, like to proceed?

How would you, like to proceed?