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cute puppyLots of people feel the urge to cuddle and care for a puppy – especially one that doesn’t have a home and needs all the TLC an animal lover can give. But if you see an online ad for a dog, or any pet, be warned: that pooch’s pic may just be a trick to steal your money.

Scam artists have bilked animal lovers by posting ads with pictures of puppies and other pets. The ads often include a compelling story about why the puppy is available, and details about his or her lovable personality. The ads may request a reasonable payment for the pet, say $300, or they may claim the pet is available to a good home for free – if you pay for shipping.

If you pay, you’ll get additional requests for money for things like vet bills, crating, shipping, or inspection costs. But when it’s all said and spent, Lassie never comes home – because she wasn’t really for sale in the first place.

Here are a few tips to keep you from getting dogged by scammers selling phantom pets:

  • Don’t use a money transfer service. The surest sign of a scam is when someone insists you use a money transfer service – like Western Union or MoneyGram – as the only form of payment for a pet. Money transfers are like sending cash; once you send it, you can’t get it back. Cash reload packs – like GreenDot MoneyPak, Vanilla Reload or Reloadit – come with the same risks. 
  • Do your research. Ask for detailed information about the person selling the pet. What is the person’s full name, phone number and mailing address? What turns up if you search online for the seller’s name or phone number with the word “scam” or “complaint”?
  • Try doing a reverse image search of the photo to see if it appears in older ads. To do this, right click on the photo and select “copy image location,” “copy image address,” or go to “properties” to copy the image’s location on the internet. Paste the link into a search engine and select the option that allows you to search by image. If the same picture shows up in an older listing, it’s probably a scam. Sometimes, the photos are from social media sites or old listings; the scammer simply re-posts them with a new, bogus online classified ad. But keep in mind: even if you don’t find anything wrong it doesn’t mean that everything’s alright.
  • Consider adoption from a local animal shelter. Pets of all types are in shelters across the U.S. waiting for loving homes. Many can be adopted for a small fee.

If a pretending pooch peddler pilfers money from your pockets, file a complaint with the FTC. If you transferred money for to a scammer for a pet that never appeared, let the money transfer company know, too.

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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
  • We won’t post comments that include vulgar messages, personal attacks by name, or offensive terms that target specific people or groups.
  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
  • We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to

We don't edit comments to remove objectionable content, so please ensure that your comment contains none of the above. The comments posted on this blog become part of the public domain. To protect your privacy and the privacy of other people, please do not include personal information. Opinions in comments that appear in this blog belong to the individuals who expressed them. They do not belong to or represent views of the Federal Trade Commission.

November 13, 2014
I can't believe people still fall for these things.
November 13, 2014
Beware of online fraud.
Don't use your…
December 01, 2017

In reply to by carimason

Does enybory knows about this dog breeder Gordonspitbull I think his trying to scam me by recuestin payment by Walmart to Walmart payment
November 14, 2014
November 14, 2014
S C U M B A G S ! ! !
November 15, 2014
Thanks. My son is going to be looking for a dog on line somewhere. Your article has been very helpful.
November 16, 2014
These Scammers are using company names that do exist...however.,keep in mind these same Companies NEVER call you or ask for money. Puppies? Well they are getting more clever....BEWARE!!!!
March 21, 2017

In reply to by ilonka

Think i got,scam from amazon. Lady said she had a pup for 300 plus a refundable 85 for insurance and ive been emailing her and nothing. I looked up the sellers address and it middle of the road. Im a 23 year old mother that just tried to give my kids a dog because weve been,thriugh so much smh. This is so sick that they do this.
May 02, 2019

In reply to by Ashamedandhurt

do you have her email address, send it to me, i'll tell you who she is.
December 03, 2014
To Janecita - I hope you will convince your son to adopt from a local animal shelter. Anytime you see these ads if they're real they come from unscrupulous breeders and still live a short horrible life. in the shelters have all been checked by vets and given all their shots. And you can rescue one and feel great!
December 06, 2014
Why is the government not regulating MoneyGram to prevent thieves from using their services to steal from people. the thieves use it because they can get away with it. It's time for Law Enforcement to step in close MoneyGram till they start protecting their customers.
Get Real
December 09, 2014
Robbed -- Please explain how "the government" would regulate MoneyGram or other money transfer services. Maybe by telling people not to use them? Requiring clerks to interrogate them about where the money is going and then make a judgment about whether to allow it? And no, "the government" doesn't have a list of all scammers. They change their names and other information all the time. "The government" can't regulate stupidity.
December 09, 2014
I am wondering what to do with some texts that are the first step toward an attempt to scam me. I had some puppies to sell on Craigslist, and some of the texts I have received are about sending me a check for some lame reason or another so the pup can be picked up and sent to somewhere or another. Different stories, same MO. Is there someplace I can report these? Or do I have to actually lose money first?
December 10, 2014

In reply to by Wondering

You can file a consumer complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at The online complaint system will prompt you to answer a few questions and at the end, you will have an opportunity to express in your own words what happened. You can copy and paste the text message there in that notes section. Thanks.

August 12, 2017

In reply to by Wondering

This is happing rite now the guy sent me a check.. I felt like it was a scam but the check came from bank I called the issuing bank and they verified the account and funds were there.. so I deposit check and the next day guy says his daughter was in fatal accident and he needs part of the money. Back and he can not. Buy puppy cuz his daughter is dying...then he text back and says ok just send me $1000 by money order or western union... he needs it to save her life... so I then said I will credit the money back to the original account and bank the money was sent to me.. he said no he need money order or western union... he sent photos of "himself and daughter"... he text today and says they told him if he does not have the $1000 his daughter will die
September 20, 2017

In reply to by Lana

I would tell him all deposits are non refundable and the money will go toward another litter. They scam us why not scam them back. Sounds like a fake story to me
May 22, 2018

In reply to by Lana

Wow!! A similar story I got when trying to sell my dogs. I got a check for three times more than my asking price. Same story, his daughter actually died and his assistant is handling the purchase of the dog. My thoughts were, "So your daughter died and you buying dogs!!??" I wonder who are they stealing this money from. Almost $3000, who is behind all of this!? Everything looks legit but I know there is something wrong. I don't feel comfortable depositing this check in my account.
May 30, 2018

In reply to by Lana

I am going through this right now. Has there been any update about what happened? Or who is doing this and what kind of scam this is?
February 25, 2015
These people use very professional website and everything seems legit till you make your payment! Then all the red flags pop up and you are screwed. Then all you get are texts from the so-called company that won't answer phone calls in 3 diffrent states. And all have strange recordings asking for your name! Even from the "seller".
March 16, 2015
mach have how many dog
April 28, 2015
My fiance and U were scammed out of $4000! I had never heard of puppy scams until it was too late!!
October 06, 2015
Recently my husband and I were victims of a puppy scam...I thought I had done my research until the day the puppy was to be delivered. I received a text from the shipper requesting more money $799.00 for travel insurance. I refused and told him to get it from the breeder. I tried contacting the breeder and NO response. The shipper again texted me and said if I don't sent the money ASAP he would take the puppy to the pound and he would not be responsible for what happens to him. I told just return the puppy to the breeder and he said, you owned the puppy so pay the money and I will ship her...Long story short I told him I would be calling the States Atty, local authories and anyone else. The shipper texted back and said, don't do nothing let me get back to you. I have heard nothing this happened on Sunday, October 4. I am out my money and it is very disappointing because I thought these were deceit people and there website is so, so professional. Never again, if I can't touch, feel the puppy I don't buy it. Hopefully they catch this group.
April 06, 2017

In reply to by squirt

This just happened to me....was it a golden doodle that you were getting?
November 12, 2017

In reply to by squirt

This happened to me today. I sent 850 to Tulsa for my wirehaired pointer Western Union. I was called and told I needed to pay 1760 more dollars for a climate crate and insurance. I said no and now short 850 and no puppy.
November 13, 2017

In reply to by LexAnna

I live very close to Tulsa, I would love to check this out for you and find out if this is a scammer. This makes me sick. I am in the process of looking for a special type of dog and they all come from either Europe or Russia. I am very skeptical. Anyone that needs a dog checked out in my area, please contact me, I can go take a look at it and make sure it is legit. Im sorry this happened to you.
August 13, 2019

In reply to by MoTown

Does anyone know about “The Lucky Pupp” or “Global Rescue Team” on Twitter who send donations to a rescue sanctuary called Khalkhali and others. Some say they are legit, some say they are scammers. Anyone?
August 13, 2020

In reply to by LexAnna

What do I do when I fall for the trick of being scammed and have to end up paying a fine for a dog that was supposedly dead and trying to call the police on me ?
November 17, 2018

In reply to by squirt

Yes this just happened to me. While I was looking online on FB in one of the Animals to purchase groups, this man named, Brian Blu offered to give me a Yorkshire Terrier for free stating he had two pups, a boy and a girl that he needed to find a good home for. Well I bought it and ended up giving an Amazon gift card online for 80 bucks for the delivery fee to send the pup to me. He said he was in another state. Soon as I paid this way, he acted like he had taken the pup down to the shipment facility and when he got there, now they were requiring a 500 dollar fee to protect the puppy for safety, and part of it was for a specialized crate to keep the pup warm. That is when I finally woke up and realized that he was a scammer. For one he wouldn't give me any of his info like his address, phone or email but he duped me into giving all of mine. Plus he kept hammering about making sure that I buy an Amazon card in cash. Now, I am so mad about it
February 29, 2016
I just fell for something like this. Now were out avout $600. This is real people. I did some research and this lady has been doing this for months. Her name is alicia walker she is from spokane washington her number is 253-256-2354 i found an ad for a teacup yorkie puppy she said it was free that i had to pay $350 for shipping and then another $200 for the crate and insurance... We really need to stop these people
August 03, 2017

In reply to by cbrumley

My friend was trying to buy a sweet pug puppy for her kids and she can't now because she was scamed with a pug puppy that did not exsist and she lost $600. She said it will take maybe years to get the money for the puppy back.
unwilling victim
December 16, 2017

In reply to by Kayla

I was just scammed on a pug puppy supposedly out of Seattle and it is very emberassing but you are not alone. I am retired and they were o so convincing will hurt our christmas. I cannot fathom why this is allowed to continue over the internet. Once I refused to pay the threats just kept on coming. Funny they will not disclose the location of the puppy prior to shipping so I can go get it.
November 06, 2017

In reply to by cbrumley

Did she say she has cancer which is why she's giving the pup up? My sister received email from someone saying she was from Indiana, has a 8 week teacup yorkie, claimed she didn't want any money. Couldn't talk on phone because she has throat cancer (how convenient, no phone number to trace). My sister offered to go down and pick it up and have not heard a word back since then. No money exchanged hands anyway. Another one... yorkie pups from Maryland, free but wanted shipping/homing fee. Scammers abound!
February 04, 2018

In reply to by cbrumley

Think I’m dealing with same people but name is Camille and John ried , weird spelling , haven’t paid anything just asked for money to be paid to shipper when asked was going to use the I’ll fly out there to pick up as I have plenty miles see what happens but thanks as might be same people I noticed white long finger nails and looked around found same pic with diamond ring and diamond bracelets the same in other pics with different names so might be . I emailed spokan police see what they might know , thanks a lot
February 11, 2018

In reply to by stevethepa

Hello, I was wondering if you ever found out anything? I started dealing with these people today. Was wondering if they were legit or not.
March 15, 2018

In reply to by stevethepa

I just received an email from a Camille and John, did you ever find out if they are truly scammers?
March 16, 2018

In reply to by dkangel

i also received an email from Camille and John Ried regarding Teacup Yorkies of Spokane Washington. Said this is there last litter and wanted to give them away to folks who would give them loving forever homes. They went on to ask questions of me in the email such as 'Have you ever owned a dog? Are you employed? , do you have children? Do you live near a vet hospital? ---- etc Said you could pick them up for free but would ship for $450 (I live 2,200 miles from there). My very first thought was 'wow,,, how nice and yes I am very interested but after sleeping on it i woke up thinking this has got to be a scam. Interested in knowing if anyone found out if they are truly scammers. Luckily I was able to find a Yorkie near me today :)
CJ scam
December 26, 2018

In reply to by Harleydog

No money exchanged, but a legit looking website called "CJ" posted teacup pomeranian puppies out of Minnesota. Asked for moneygram per Walmart, CVS, or Walgreens for $420. No way would we chance that. Later, we found the same puppies listed on other websites under different names and genders. I am reporting them.
March 07, 2016
Just like CBrumley above my family found some teacup yorkie puppies on . We texted the 253-256-5324 number and they sent an email. Here is one of the pictures that was sent with the email The email address was AliciaWalker I noticed right away that this is a complete scam. Do not fall for this!
March 10, 2016
Thanks for posting this. We were contacting Alicia Walker about toy poodle puppies. Thanks for the warning.
March 11, 2016
I just texted the same person, it is definitely a scam..
April 22, 2016
I fell for this website advertising cute maltese puppies. I wanted one so badly that I paid the initial $250. Then they asked me for a whopping $680 for INSURANCE. I knew then that I was being taken. Now they are threatening me with abandoning a puppy. The website is amazingmaltesepups They should be shut down.
May 01, 2016
Ive been looking at English Bulldogs.And today I have had 2 different people claim they have puppies for sale. One man claims to be a Morgan Willaims and he could have the dog delivered to me. When I said I would drive 3 hours to pic up, he said he would discuss it with the family. He's moving to Ontario to work at Sams Club. I know I wont here from him. The other claims to have 4 pups his name was James Scott. It advertised pups in my town but when we communicated he now claims his mother died in Utah and they were her pups. they were basically giving them away but $500. would cover cost of delivery of a pup. Please. Ive bought 2 dogs years ago online.Legit people have a whole sight about their dogs and available litters. You receive documentation on the dogs before purchase. Use PayPal for the purchase. and documents for the airlines with flight numbers and time flight comes in. Ive had 3 dogs that have flown to their new homes.Check with airlines as to cost of flying an animal with a certified crate. Good luck to people trying to buy online today.
May 14, 2016
I just lost 550 for a yorkie cuz I wouldn't pay 970 for insurance to be shipped to me . watch out for johnson from Maryland not worth those cute puppies he doesn't have
July 25, 2016
Just got off at text a few minutes ago where I soon realized something was wrong. Offering pedigree Shih Tzu puppies for only the cost of the shipping. Fell hook line and sinker for the scam until I got to thinking. I asked for a picture of the puppies with a piece of paper with my name written on it. Made them so mad. Ranting about how he was a Christian "Personlity" and all I needed was to trust him. I replied that as a sister in Christ I just needed a little reassurance. He replied that he had just dropped them off at the shipper 2 days ago and is waiting for my shipping info. Funny, I only spoke with him one day ago. WATCH OUT FOR WILLIAM SANDERS phone number 573-492-2650. I will continue to do whatever I can to get this name and number out so he takes no one else.
January 14, 2017

In reply to by WilliamSandersScam

What was the name of the place you were buying and shipping the puppy? I am interested in one and don't want to be scammed. Thank you & God Bless. Jan
August 12, 2021

In reply to by WilliamSandersScam

In all other states, they are reserved to little geographic regions, such as Atlantic City in New Jersey.
November 13, 2016
Another way to weed out scanners is to tell them you want to come to them to pick up your puppy and will pay then..most likely if it's a scammer, you'll never hear from them again.
November 19, 2016
Contacted me. Wanted shipping costs, through Amazon gift card for $150.00. Dounded suspicious, i said no...don't trust you. I get a text using the F word.