How to avoid this expensive and heartbreaking act of fraud
It won’t come as news to anyone that with so many people isolated in their homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many seek companionship by purchasing a puppy. We’ve all seen friends and family members’ posts on social media welcoming a new puppy into their homes over the past year. Many decided to do so because their new work-from-home situation allows them to be home more.
Unfortunately, many criminals are using this increase in demand for puppies as an opportunity to rob innocent people. As puppy purchases are on the rise across the country, so too are puppy scams.
What is a Puppy Scam?
Puppy scams are, unfortunately, simple situations. A potential puppy buyer responds to an ad they see online claiming to be selling puppies or dogs. The buyer inquires with the "seller," learns about the "available puppy," and agrees to purchase it. Money is often requested to be sent via e-transfer or credit card up front before meeting the "available puppy."
Sometimes the buyer will be even be asked repeatedly for more money that was not initially indicated would be required by the "seller." The "seller" claims they need extra funds for shipping, or the seller has to purchase a special crate, additional insurance, or medication.
In the end, though, money exchanges hands, the buyer does not receive the promised puppy, and they never hear from the seller again.
Horrible right? The good thing is that now that you know how a puppy scam happens, some common signs can help you avoid falling victim to a puppy scam.
Signs of a Puppy Scam
- Often, the price seems too good to be true. Scammers do this to get multiple quick sales. A lower price tends to also attract less experienced dog people – a scammer’s ideal victim. An ethical preservation breeder invests tons of money into raising, training, and health testing their dogs. The price reflects the effort they dedicate to raising happy, healthy puppies. That being said, a higher price does not necessarily mean you aren't dealing with a scammer.
- Puppy Scammers want your money. Fast. The conversation continuously returns to payment.
- The scammer usually wants money sent in untypical, non-secure ways (wiring money, meeting a friend of theirs with cash in a parking lot, gift cards, etc.)
- Scammers are short with their answers to your questions and are quick to tell you that there are plenty of other people wanting puppies and that you should send money quickly to reserve one.
- Scammers rarely give a phone number and generally won’t show you the puppies via video call.
- The creation date on their website is usually relatively recent.
- They don’t give you a real name. With a first and last name, you can contact the Canadian Kennel Club to see if they are in good standing. You can also Google search their name with the breed they are selling. Ask yourself: Does their website come up along with other sites mentioning their dogs' accomplishments? Or are there complaints and warnings? Knowing their name will let you look them up on Facebook and other social media to see if they indeed are who they say they are. Do they have a typical amount of friends? Do interactions with them seem to be positive? Do their pictures show them actively caring and competing with their dogs? Do the dogs on their Facebook page match the dogs on their website?
- False images. While their website may be flashy - anyone can get a website made within hours for a couple hundred dollars - check to see if their photos are unique to them. Are they using stock images? Have they taken photos from another breeder’s website? It only takes a few clicks to steal an image.
How to Avoid a Puppy Scam
The best way to avoid a puppy scam is to know the signs of a reputable and responsible preservation breeder. CKC has a great infographic to get you started.
- Preservation breeders are happy to talk about their dogs with serious inquiring puppy buyers. They will tell of their dog sports accomplishments, what they breed for and what health testing they've had done on their dogs.
- Responsible breeders aren't in any rush to sell you a puppy.
- You will get asked a ton of questions to see if you are the right fit for one of their puppies.
- Responsible breeders are happy to give references from past buyers.
- Responsible breeders are actively involved in dog sports and members of clubs. Most are members of several clubs, including the Canadian Kennel Club – Canada’s National Kennel Club (you can read the CKC’s Code of Ethics and Code of Practice for Member Breeders here: (https://www.ckc.ca/en/Files/Legal-Policy-and-Procedures/Code-of-Practice-Sept-2017). They are usually also a member of a breed club and usually a local kennel club too.
- They will gladly give you their first and last name so that you can check to see if they are a Canadian Kennel Club member in good standing.
You can also avoid a puppy scam by using the following tips:
- Request references from the breeder, including the puppies’ veterinarian (the breeder will have to consent to the vet to share medical records). Google and social media search these references as well to assure they are legit.
- Hold off from paying the full amount until physically seeing the dog, whether in person (while following COVID safety precautions) or via virtual meeting. It is common for a responsible breeder to ask for a deposit beforehand to assure you are serious. This amount varies, but in my experience, it is usually around a quarter of the dog's price. This should only be done after meeting in person or virtually meeting the breeder and puppy.
- Check with the Canadian Kennel Club to confirm if the breeder is a member in good standing*.
- Google search the email address and phone number provided and see what comes up.
Knowing how a puppy scam works and avoiding one will save you a lot of money and heartache. If you have been a victim of fraud, please contact your local police. You should also contact other relevant organizations, including the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (https://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/index-eng.htm 1-888-495-8501) or through the Fraud Reporting System.
*CKC member breeders are required to abide by CKC policies, procedures, bylaws, and the requirements of the Animal Pedigree Act.