BBB Tip: Avoiding Scams When Purchasing a Dog

Embarrassed dog lying on a bed

Many people have never felt so lonely as during the COVID-19 pandemic. As humans craved companionship, they turned to pet adoptions like never before. Unfortunately, the number of dog scams spiked accordingly.

The Better Business Bureau says pet scams showed the highest increase of all types of online shopping fraud, at 24% of online scams reported to BBB Scam Tracker. And considering that lists over 8,000 fraudulent pet websites, pet scams are a huge problem.

In this article, we’ll cover some of the most common dog scams. We’ll also share tips on how you can spot red flags and avoid getting scammed.

Common Dog Scams

Here are a couple of the most common scams to avoid when purchasing or adopting a dog.

Like most other scams, dog scams typically follow a two-step hook and sting approach.

Step 1. The scammer tries to establish a rapport with the victim. Once the victim has swallowed the story hook, line and sinker they move to the next step.

Step 2. The scammer comes up with reasons why he or she suddenly needs money from the victim that was not previously mentioned or agreed upon.

Dog Breeder Scam

The scammers pretend to be dog breeders and offer puppies for sale at a low price. They typically have a professional website that looks legitimate. 

To get the puppy you want, you’re asked to pay a deposit using gift cards or another untraceable payment method. Once you’ve made your payment, the scammer disappears.

Dog Shipping Scam

The scammers pretend they want to give a dog away for free to a good home. Typical reasons include that they’re moving into an apartment or condo complex that doesn’t allow dogs or that their child passed away.

Once you’ve decided you want the dog, they mention that you only have to pay for shipping. They will often use a bogus website where you can buy a plane ticket for the dog.

Note: Delta Air Lines filed a lawsuit against a website that tricked people into believing they were dealing with Delta when booking flights for their pets.

Dog Rescue Scam

The scammers pretend they’ve rescued a dog that they want to place in a good home.

Once you’ve agreed to adopt the dog, they inform you that the dog first has to be checked out by a vet. They will then send you fake vet bills and expect you to pay them.

They may also tell you the dog needs a life saving operation and ask you to pay for it. This can continue for as long as you are willing to send money.

There are hundreds of scams and variations of scams. But by spotting the red flags, you’ll be able to see through most dog scams.

Red Flags

Here are some common red flags.

  • You can only communicate with the seller through email – A legitimate seller will always be able and willing to communicate with you via phone or video chat.


  • You have to pay the seller by wire transfer, cash app or gift card – Scammers often insist on payment methods that don’t allow you to get your money back.


  • The price is too good to be true – When you can get a puppy from a breeder for $500 that other breeders sell for $1,000+ think twice.


  • The seller can’t give you an invoice – Google the address on an invoice or phone the number provided to make sure it’s legitimate. 


  • You have to pay for the dog without seeing it – At the very least, you should be able to see the dog on a video call. If the seller can only show you photos, walk away.


Buying a dog online is very risky. It’s always advisable to meet the dog you want to adopt in person before you proceed.

If you think you’ve been scammed, report it to BBB Scam Tracker and the Federal Trade Commission.

For more consumer tips and the latest scam alerts, visit our blog.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin