Scam Alert: Shopping for a Puppy? Watch Out for Phony Breeders

September 29, 2017

Online pet sales scams are on the rise. In fact, nearly 80% of online sponsored pet listings may be fake, according to a new BBB report on puppy scams. If you are shopping online for a new cat, dog, parrot, or other pet, watch out for this common con.  

How the Scam Works:

You want to buy a dog, so you look for breeders online. An ad directs you to a website that appears to be run by a reputable breeder. The site has photos of puppies and guarantees of their health and vaccinations, even testimonials from happy pet owners. The best part is that this breeder's prices are lower than those listed elsewhere. In some cases, the pets are even free and you just pay for shipping.

You contact the breeder about purchasing the dog, and they agree to ship the puppy to you. In some versions, the "breeder" instructs you to pay a third-party company to transport your new pet. The "shipping service" is really a scam. Other times, the breeder asks for money to purchase a crate, buy insurance, or cover other costs. Scammers typically continue to request money for fictional expenses until the would-be owner gets fed up.

No matter the excuse, don't fall for it. The puppy will never arrive, because the dog doesn't exist. The scammer simply stole the pictures and other information from a legitimate breeder's website. Although the scam is most prevalent with puppies, BBB found fake websites for kittens, parrots, and other animals.

Tips to avoid a pet scam:

  • Always visit the breeder in person. Arrange to take a tour of the breeder's property and pick up your puppy in person. If the breeder insists on shipping the dog, that's a big red flag.
  • Check references.  Talk to others who have purchased pets from this breeder and the veterinarian the breeder works with.
  • Pay with check or credit card. If a breeder pressures you to pay by wire transfer or prepaid debit card, it is probably a scam
  • Check BBB Tips. Many online sales scams follow similar patterns. for more advice.


For More Information

BBB recently published an extensive report about puppy scamsRead the complete report here.  

To learn more about scams, go to BBB Scam Tips ( To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker (