Puppy Scams: How to Spot and Avoid Them

Who doesn’t want a cute cuddly puppy to spend the quarantine with? Especially for people who live alone, there are psychological benefits to having a pet when you feel disconnected from your support system. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), dogs reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, and ease loneliness. Owning a dog can also have physical benefits as a result of more time being spent outside walking your furry friend. As mental health issues climb during the pandemic, so have dog adoptions. Like many other hot items, there is a shortage of puppies for sale right now. And what do scammers do when there’s something out there that’s in very high demand? They take advantage of it. People young and old, all over the country have been swindled by this emotionally appealing scam. Review the tips and warning signs below to make sure you don’t fall victim to a puppy scam.

What is a puppy scam?

If you haven’t heard of puppy scams, they are when a scammer uses social media to post a puppy for sale that you will never actually receive. Typically, these scammers will steal photos of dogs on social media to reel you in. There may also be some type of emotionally appealing story that makes adopting the puppy seem urgent. They will negotiate with you, telling you they are hours away (so you can’t go visit the puppy) but they will ship the puppy to you. Once they receive the money – usually in the form of gift cards, Bitcoin, or money orders, which are all untraceable forms of currency – you will lose contact with the “seller” and will never receive the puppy. Most of these scammers are outside of the United States, making it even more unlikely that you will get any of your money back.

What to look for

Look out for these warning signs when searching for a puppy online:

  • The seller says they are too far away for you to come visit the puppy
  • The seller asks for a gift card, Bitcoin, or a money order as payment
  • You may receive vague information about the puppy’s parents
  • The seller says they will ship the puppy instead of letting you pick it up
  • The seller uses an emotional story to convince you to adopt the puppy immediately

Safe ways to adopt a puppy

If you’re looking to adopt a puppy, opt for one of these safer methods:

  • A licensed puppy breeder
  • A licensed pet store
  • A local animal shelter
  • A private owner who lets you visit the puppy in person
  • An online seller who allows you to visit and pick up the puppy and asks for a traceable form of payment, such as a check

When it comes to a large purchase, such as a puppy, stop and think before you buy. If it feels like it could be a scam, it probably is. If you have any friends who have adopted puppies in the past they could be a great place to get a lead on finding your own furry best friend.

If you think you may have been a victim of a puppy scam or any other type of scam, call our contact center at 888-777-9982 and we will assist you in next steps. For more articles on personal finance, check out our Learning Center Blog.

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