Short-lived websites offer popular dog breeds for a fraction of the normal cost

Dog Hanging Out of Car Window / Paws Before You Buy: Everything You Need to Know about Puppy Scams
Image: Pexels
March 27, 2017

Big eyes, wagging tails, enthusiastic kisses—who doesn't love puppies?

If you're thinking about buying a new four-legged friend, however, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) wants you to know about a new scam that's taking advantage of our love for man's best friend.

Almost a dozen online puppy scams have popped up recently. These short-lived websites offer popular breeds for just a fraction of the normal price that a legitimate breeder would have charged. The sites usually disappear within weeks of scamming consumers.

Examples of such sites include:


Real-Life Cases

Back in January, a woman in Ohio was looking online for a Pomeranian puppy. She found a supposed seller called "Elizabeth" who was advertising a purebred Teacup Pomeranian complete with registration papers, health certificates, veterinary records, and free shipping from Baltimore, all for just $550.

The BBB says that the Ohio customer offered to pick the puppy up in Baltimore and received the address of an office building. Upon requesting more details from the seller, however, "all communications ceased." The customer later bought a puppy fully registered with the American Kennel Club from a local breeder for $1700.

In a second case, a BBB employee recently contacted using an alias and asked about the animals for sale as well as the location. A representative from the site claimed that it was located in Cleveland, but the business stopped responding after the BBB asked for an address and other details.

Red Flags for Puppy Scams

  • Payments can only be made via wire transfer—wire transfers are anonymous and non-refundable, so scammers love them.
  • You can't visit the animal or the breeder—scammers use false addresses and never give consumers the option to pick up the pet in person.
  • The seller can't provide any photos of the pet except the one you saw online—scammers do not actually have the puppy, so they copied a photo from another site. If you're not sure the business is legitimate, right click the available image and search for it on Google. If it's being used on other sites, it's a scam.
  • The site is new and registered overseas—if you search the web address at a domain lookup site and find out that it was created only recently and registered in a different country, beware.
  • Negative word-of-mouth—consumers who have been scammed often post warnings about their experiences that you will see if you do an online search for the business's email address, name, phone number, and similar information.
References: Don't Waste Your Money, BBB