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A doggone scam!

Created date

May 24th, 2017

Owning a pet can be a joy. It can also be expensive, especially if you’re looking for a pure breed instead of a pound puppy. If you’re in the market for a new addition to the family, beware! Pet adoption scams are stealing victims’ money and breaking their hearts.

There are a number of popular websites where breeders can post photos of their puppies. If you happen to live thousands of miles from the breeder, no problem! That’s what animal shipping services are for.  

While the vast majority of breeders selling puppies on websites are honest and reputable, it’s fairly easy for unscrupulous scammers to post their own cute puppy photos on these sites. Oftentimes, their price is considerably lower than the going rate for similar puppies. Some even offer the puppy for free, as long as the buyer pays the shipping cost. 

When you inquire about the pup, the “breeder” may then demand to be paid through a wire service, an iTunes gift card, or a preloaded debit card. He or she might say that’s what the shipping company demands.

Regular readers of this column know how the story ends—with no puppy and no way to get your stolen money back. Thousands of people have been duped by this heartless scam.

Before you get taken by scammers, know how to protect yourself. 

Four tips

1. Whenever someone specifies that payment must be through a wire transfer service like Western Union or MoneyGram, it’s probably a scam because once the money is sent, there’s no way to get it back. Reloadable debit cards, iTunes gift cards, and PayPal transactions come with the same risks. Your best option is to use a credit card with some sort of buyer protection.

2. Do a reverse image search of the photo to see if the exact same picture of the exact same dog has been used in the breeder’s previous postings. To do this, right click on the photo and select “copy image location,” “copy image address,” or go to “properties” to copy the image’s location on the Internet. Paste the link into a search engine and select the option that allows you to search by image. If the same picture shows up in an older listing, it’s probably a scam. Remember though, even if this search doesn’t turn up reused photos, it could still be a scam. 

3. Check references. Organizations like the American Kennel Club ( and the Humane Society of the United States ( maintain lists of reputable breeders. Check those sites out. 

4. If you do purchase a dog that must be shipped to you, be sure to check out the shipping service as well. 

One sure way to avoid being pet-scammed is to get your new pup from a local breeder, animal shelter, or rescue group.