Safe Pet Ownership Part 1

How to Avoid a Puppy Scam Part 1

Of all the things to get scammed for — and to what unthinkable lengths some crooks will go!

While some people are just looking for a sweet and furry new family member, a few bad apples are out there trying to make a quick buck. And there's nothing too low and despicable for these people — least of all not pet adoption scams.

Every year, would-be pet owners are conned out of millions of dollars that would be otherwise spent on supporting legitimate shelters and puppy breeders whose love of animals serves both local and non-local communities. Instead, that money goes straight into the pockets of petty crooks who take advantage of people's love for animals to con them out of their money. So what can you do to avoid falling victim to a cybercrime and pet adoption con artists when all you want to do is adopt a Goldendoodle puppy?

This guide is designed to educate you about how puppy adoption scams work and how you can identify and avoid them. By taking a few simple precautions before buying a puppy, you can have that little fluff ball running around your house and everyone happy before you know it.

F1B Petite Goldendoodle Sitting Outside in the Grass Looking Up with Bewilderment

How Does a Puppy Adoption Scam Work?

Like so many scams, puppy breeder scams rely on a simple-yet-effective method to part you with your money — up-front payments.

Scammers take advantage of something that is normally required by legitimate puppy breeders to secure orders from real customers and run a legitimate business. Just like you, real puppy breeders need to know they're dealing with real people who are serious about buying a puppy and not just wasting their time. To do this, they often require a deposit so they can schedule and account for the number of puppies still for sale and create a business correspondence with their customers that keeps everyone happy and everything running smoothly.

Well, there's the rub. If you're not careful, you could be making a “deposit” to someone that has about as many puppies for sale as the neighborhood fish store. Unfortunately, puppy adoption scams are becoming more elaborate than ever with the internet serving as a digital black market for cybercrime opportunities. Many puppy adoption scammers post ads on websites such as Craigslist and Facebook, while others go as far as to set up entire websites for the purpose of collecting your “deposit” and riding off into the sunset.

And it may not even stop there. A “deposit” can just be the first of many payments you'll be asked to make by a scammer busy working on excuses that require more of your money. After your “deposit”, you may be asked to make payments for animal insurance, vaccinations and delivery. The scammer will probably stall for time at every corner, and somehow, somewhere, you'll need to make another payment to get a little closer to your new puppy.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic is giving these bad actors even more leeway when it comes to excuses on why everything needs to be done from a distance. Because of regulations in social distancing designed to keep us all safe, pet adoption scammers are making even more money on people just looking for a sweet pet to help them get through these tough times. We can't express enough about how these people make us feel as dedicated puppy breeders, and how much we can't wait for the law to catch up to them. In the meantime, here are some great tips on avoiding puppy scams and pet adoption scams in general!

Tips on Avoiding Puppy Scams

Don't let the idea of pet adoption scams keep you from adopting a sweet Goldendoodle puppy from a genuine puppy breeder. Yes, puppy scammers can be sneaky, but there is plenty you can do to sniff them out and bust them before they get a dime. Due diligence is always a valuable investment of your time when you're planning to make a business transaction with a company or person that you're unsure about. Oftentimes, a simple background check can do wonders in revealing information that would otherwise stay hidden and act to your detriment were you to proceed without it.

Remember, puppy scammers thrive on gullibility. The less time you're willing to take to investigate them, the higher the chances they will succeed. Here are some smart things to do before buying a puppy online.

F1B Petite Goldendoodle Sitting Outside and Sticking Out their Tongue

Follow Up on the Seller's Location and Contact Information

Any legitimate family-raised puppy breeder will have a specific location and contact information where they can be reached and found. If you are near their location, ask if you can pay them a visit to confirm that their home exists. While there is a pandemic and social distancing is strongly advised, eager pet owners and genuine puppy breeders should still be able to arrange a socially-distanced meeting that gives them all the proof they need. This can involve something as easy as staying in your car and getting a view of the puppy parents or the puppies themselves, or simply just confirming that the people you're talking to can actually be found at their home.

If you are willing to travel to their home but the seller would rather “meet you halfway” or at a public location — it's a huge red flag. Any legitimate puppy breeder is not only happy to provide you their address but even give you a tour of the family-raised puppy environment and show you what a caring home they live in. Genuine puppy breeders should be the opposite of shy when it comes to showing you how and where the puppies are raised. Provided that they're responsible breeders, allowing you to see the puppy home will only reinforce your confidence in purchasing a puppy.

If you're nowhere near their location or a meeting is otherwise unsuitable, don't worry, there are still plenty of things you can do to make sure they're legit. And even if you do meet with them and see the puppies or puppy parents, don't stop there, and follow up with these tips below.

Get in Touch with Their Veterinary Contacts

ALL puppies and puppy parents need to have veterinary visits, and any legitimate puppy breeder should be able to provide veterinary certifications on both the puppies and the puppy parents. One of the first things you should ask for when doing a background check on a puppy breeder is which veterinarian they work with. Obviously, the veterinary clinic will need to be near the breeder's location and should be an established business with contact information and an address.

If the breeder is elusive and unwilling to provide a veterinary background check on the puppies they're selling, hang up the phone. They might also say they have an in-house veterinarian that looks after their pups. That's NOT how it works. Veterinarians are required by law to have a practicing license. And in order to provide services, they must have an establishment — otherwise they can't provide the legal certifications for the puppies and the puppy parents. Whether this is the case or not with the breeder in question, one who is unwilling or unable to connect you with their veterinary provider should be avoided.

Once you reach the puppy breeder's veterinary contact, run a background check on the breeder and on the types of puppies they are putting up for sale. A call with the veterinarian should be able to confirm the puppies' and puppy parents' breeds, ages, how often the breeders visit and how long they've been working together. The more good things the veterinarian has to say about the puppy breeders, the more confidence you'll have that they're a legitimate business just looking for loving homes for their pups.

Follow Up on Customer References

If the person you're talking to is a responsible puppy breeder, they should be able to offer plenty of references to satisfied customers. These will be families with growing or fully-grown dogs that they purchased from the breeder and are now enjoying life with a loving pet at their side.

Responsible puppy breeders care for their pups so much that they often stay in contact with their customers long after puppy adoption. And satisfied customers are often equally-willing to stay in touch — and happily share updates and stories about their puppies and their adventures together. Because the customers are so happy with their dogs, they might even be willing to receive a call, show you pictures of their dogs or otherwise provide information that will reassure you that you're dealing with a real and responsible puppy breeder.

This guide continues in How to Avoid a Puppy Scam Part 2 and highlights even more things to look for—and avoid—before committing to a puppy purchase!

F1 Minature Goldendoodle Laying Down in Bed with A Serious Glance Forward