Beware of Scammers on National Puppy Day

Tomorrow is National Puppy Day, and Better Business Bureau (BBB) is providing tips on buying or adopting a pet and reminding consumers to be on guard against online puppy scams.

“Don’t be in a hurry when deciding to bring a dog in to the family. When you don’t take time to research and think it through, it can make you more vulnerable to scammers or regrettable purchases,” said Lori Wilson, president and CEO of BBB serving the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern Coastal California. “Scammers exploit emotions tied to puppy adoption or purchase. You can avoid these heartbreaking scams and find a good fit for your home by carefully researching breed characteristics and adopting a dog from a trustworthy seller, breeder, or rescue shelter,” she recommends.

One of the first places prospective puppy owners turn for research is the Internet. However, a BBB International Investigations Initiative study, “Puppy Scams: How Fake Online Pet Sellers Steal from Unsuspecting Pet Buyers,” warns of the risks associated with purchasing a pet online.

The study estimates that tens of thousands of consumers in the U.S. and around the world may have fallen victim to online pet purchase scams, with prospective buyers losing anywhere from $100 to thousands of dollars each to the thieves.

Puppy scammers often build websites using stolen pictures and content from legitimate breeders or other online sources and advertise pets for a lower price than the breed usually costs. They promise to send the adorable puppy after they receive payment, often through wire transfer. The fraudsters also may continue to ask for more money, potentially for “shipping crates”, “vaccinations”, or “insurance”. The puppy seldom arrives.

A Vallejo woman reported a similar account to BBB Scam Tracker this January. She purchased two toy poodle puppies from a website and paid using Western Union. She was then told by the “shipping company” that she had to pay extra because her “puppies needed special crate and pet insurance as dictated by animal control.” Her puppies never arrived, and she lost $3,800.

Most scammers discovered in this study were found to be located in the West African country of Cameroon and were using sponsored links on search engines to target potential victims. In fact, the study found that at least 80 percent of the sponsored advertising links in an Internet search for pets may be fraudulent. In all, there may be hundreds or even thousands of fake websites offering pets for sale and using fabricated or stolen imagery and wording. BBB urges consumers not to pay money or give personal information to un-vetted websites like these.

According to the BBB Scam Tracker Annual Risk Report, online purchase scams were the riskiest scam to consumers in 2017. Pet purchases were one of the most common online purchase scams.

In 2017, consumers filed more than 200 complaints with BBB against dog breeders in the United States and Canada. Complaints sometimes involved purchasing sick dogs and then having difficulty in obtaining refunds or reimbursement for vet bills.

Prospective dog owners should avoid impulse purchases or adoptions. Take time to check out the pet, breeder, seller, or shelter at

If you feel you have been a victim of an online puppy scam, report it to BBB Scam Tracker at You can find more tips on purchasing a furry friend at


Pearl is the Communications Specialist for Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern Coastal California (BBB Oakland). She works to advance BBB’s vision of an ethical marketplace where buyers and sellers trust each other by being proactive in the community and developing relationships with business and consumer groups. Pearl represents BBB at events throughout the Bay Area to educate a wide variety of people. Pearl also manages BBB Oakland’s social media channels.

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Posted in Computers - Internet - Privacy, Consumer Tips, Scams

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