Beware of buying a puppy online

The Better Business Bureau has published a study on “puppy scams”, detailing the prevalence of fraud in online pet sales.

Researchers found that online pet scams are becoming extremely prevalent across the world.

The study examined reports of fraudulent pet sales in the US and Canada, and found that many of these scams were coordinated from Cameroon.

According to the report, most fraudsters use Cameroonians residing in the US to collect money from victims.

What is a puppy scam

Puppy scams target prospective pet owners and acquire victims via online advertisements – showing off “cheap” puppies.

Fraudsters offer the pets at prices significantly lower than those charged by legitimate breeders, and place classifieds on various online platforms – including Facebook.

The scammers initially tell the buyer they will also have to pay for the animal’s transportation costs, then begin to ask for further payments due to “unforeseen circumstances”.

In one case, a woman who ordered a teacup Yorkie from a fraudster was charged a $195 shipping fee.

The fraudster then demanded additional payments for transporting the animal, including $240 for a special crate, $980 for health insurance, $150 for food and water, and $1,900 for quarantining the animal.

The victim realised she was being defrauded, but was left almost $1,000 poorer – and did not receive a puppy.

The majority of puppy scam victims are 20-30, and lose between $100-$1,000, stated the report.

Scammers usually advertise popular breeds such as Yorkshire Terriers, French Bulldogs, and Huskies.

How to avoid puppy scams

The report outlined the following steps to avoid puppy scams:

  • Don’t buy a pet without seeing it in person.
  • Do an Internet search of the picture of the pet you are considering.
  • Search for text from ads or testimonials to see if the seller copied it from another site.
  • Always use a credit card in case you need to dispute the charges.
  • Research prices for the breed. If a purebred dog is deeply discounted, you could be dealing with a fraudulent offer.

Resources such as can also help users determine whether an online pet advert is fraudulent.

Now read: Cape Town police officer shot by cellphone store robbers

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Beware of buying a puppy online