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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.

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November 16, 2018
Brit, I think I almost go scammed by the same person. I contacted a seller who was located a couple of miles from me in Southern California about a yorkie and got this email from lovely1babies @gmail. com: Hi there , Thanks for the mail .To begin , Diego is a handsome guy and Suzzy is a beautiful girl . Both puppies are 12 weeks of age.These are purebred Yorkie puppies.The puppies are 2.5-3lbs in size and will be about 4.5-6lbs when fully grown. fast learner and very intelligent. These puppies are house broken, potty trained both out side and inside and very friendly to children and other pets. They are also current with all his shots (Distemper, Para Influenza, Boratella, Parvo and Hepatitis,Rabies shots etc) and will come along with all vet papers and all toys. Many people are seeking to adopt our puppies but we can not afford to give them to any person unless we are very sure that he or she can take proper care of any. We are willing to separate them. We don't feel comfortable selling them just little re-homing fee of $300 for one and $500 for both.We are giving the pups out for adoption because they belonged to my late son who was keeping them as home pets but he just past away after a long term cancer thus we can't keep all of them as our home pets but we'll keep their parents so we had to relocate to his home to give these puppies away and some property. I will be very willing to give you these pups if you can promise me of never to selling them because they have been like kids to him, also do get back to me with the answers of our question below so i can have an idea of where our puppies will be going to. -Have you own a pet before? - What is your phone number? -Where are you located? - Are you a breeder? - Which of the puppies are you looking at, Male or Female ? both? We are sorry for asking many questions , we just want to be very sure about who we will be adopting our babies. Thanks for taking your time to read through this email and We hope to read from you soon.Have a nice day. REGARDS Gethwine Crazy that I felt so bad for them and responded with my condolence for the loss of their son. I answered their questions and then some and got this email back from them which prompted me to google the scam: My Lil Girl Suzzy**** -She eat 2 times daily -She is socialized with other house hold pets especially cats. -She likes to be carried a lot and be spoiled. -She likes to be kissed and likes Licking your legs. We just relocated some few days ago to ALEXANDRIA,VIRGINIA which is miles from you where our late son was located with the puppies and we will like to know if you will be able to come over for pick up at our home and our address is 101 N Ripley St, Alexandria, VA 22304 or you would rather prefer that we ship the puppy. I guess you should be wondering if it is safe or not. We certainly wouldn't consider it if it wasn't. I had seconds thoughts myself on my first attempt to ship a puppy couple of years back until it was a success and "When we book a flight for a puppy it is only on safe and approved Airlines that have pet-safe programs in accordance with the USDA guidelines" The puppy will have the same air as the pilot flying the plane & someone will be there to care & looked after the pup on and off the plane until delivery.Believe me when I say it is better and more comfortable to fly a puppy on a 1-4 hours flight than drive with that puppy for 8 hours or more.Moreover, we are chanced to have coupons to ship out three puppies for FREE I am a retired US veteran thus,shipping is free you will be paying only $300 for the adoption fee. All we want in return is for you to take care of her like their own very family and send me monthly pictures or videos so i can see her progress. CAN YOU ASSURE US THAT.?
January 11, 2019

In reply to by Califdreamin

He is still advertising the same puppies January 2019. Claims he is from Lancaster Pa. Morganteacuppuppieshome. I emailed him and told him he is a scam take down your ad! His response!!! Thank you. What a Jerk.
October 30, 2020

In reply to by Joycika

This same email being used August 2019. From smart puppies1@ Name used: Anderson Bona
October 12, 2021

In reply to by Califdreamin

it is oct. 2021, these scam artists are still working. names for dogs were changed and name of person, address ext. were changed i caught on when they answered the phone with hello. i told them that a business wouldn't answer the phone with hello. every word they said was exactly the words you said. i'm going to the police dept, today to see if they are interested in stopping these heartless people.
NJ bulldog buyer
November 06, 2018
Just got off the phone with a foreign person who says I can CALL HIM DAVID.? Waite a minute I said to myself -the website said Billy and marissa.. My gut told me something isn't right. So.. Billy English bulldogs has a website (looks so professional ) but it's a giant scam. I backed out after the first guy emailed me back at 9pm and left a cell# So I called it (as a savey jersey person would).. Picked this foreign man apart with questions like "sorry to call you so late", he was like a crackhead just trying to make a deal. Anyways I'm thanking god I didn't send the first 670 for the dog+shipping.
Teacup Maltese
February 11, 2019
Wow! I almost fell into this trap but had a weird vibe. I had someone name Lillian who supposedly had a female Maltese for 480.00 and agreed to let me pay half now and the rest when her driver supposedly was going to deliver her. She did not provide any information of herself and her response was very brief and limited. I decided to not move forward
February 28, 2019
Am in process of buying puppy from Rogers Arkansas, We have been emailing back and forth and when it comes time to talk about paying they want to be paid by ZELLE, I called my credit Union. They do not deal with ZELLE, Imy husband and I wanted to use a Bank Certified check from the Credit Union. Puppy seller seemed hesitant when I called. I followed up with a text and email. No response as of yet. When I asked about AKC reg for pup they said that would. Cost $50.00 extra, They seemed legit but can Ibe sure?
March 15, 2019
Weird language to watch for in scams: “I look forward to reading from you”, telling you something and ending with “ok”? Or “right?” And always ending with God bless you.
May 29, 2019
I think the government isn’t regulating this problem because it’s too expensive for them to take the offenders to court; also the offenders usually don’t have enough money to pay restitution. Someone I knew stole a check and my MasterCard number; aliens was $4,300.00. Even tho I knew who had done this, the bank and MasterCard did nothing because prosecuting wasn’t worth their time in terms of going to court etc. I was so angry she got away with it and so was the detective I spoke to. He said it happens all the time.
August 20, 2019
any one know of royal teacup maltese I think I got scammed?
October 07, 2019
Have been in contact for puppy with grace pomeranian saying located in Fair Oaks CA. Starting to get frustrated with me as I'm questioning them. ? Scammers!!! I believe yes!
Don't use your…
November 07, 2019
we just anserd an add for a puppy last friday that was free they anserd back send us 100 dollars for transpot we got the hint....
November 18, 2019
Hi, I been wanting to buy a golden retriever and I find this site called “ spring retriever “ it’s located in Kansas, it is legit ? Some one hear about this place? Any information will be helpful. Thank you.
February 28, 2020
This just happened to me exactly what the article says not very happy
October 30, 2020
It just happened to me, 2 Havanese female and male to give away because they are living in an apartment in Norfolc, Va Email: cynthianumun11@ They wanted $350. Glad i read about it.
October 30, 2020
I have recently been scammed for purchasing a puppy online. I purchased it from evertiny pomeranians. us. Then they kept changing their websites name. Their new name is downtown mini The scammer kept using the same fake testimonials and same dogs over and over. They are so lazy that they can’t even be a little more creative.
October 30, 2020
Maggie May
May 29, 2020
Has anyone ever heard of superior havanese in Charlotte NC?
June 01, 2020
Was anyone able to recover the money from their banks? we just filled a complaint, we filed the fraud complaint with our bank, I reported to the website scammers, even reported to the FBI. But we don't even know if we are going to get our money back or not, I am enraged!
June 01, 2020
Wanted to know if anyone has heard about I have been emailing back and fourth with them and they are selling the puppies for $650 and for them to ship it from providence, rhode island to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is $100 or they said i could come and pick the puppy up but thats 9 hours away so i was going to do the shipping do you think this is a scam they seemed to answer all of my questions?
June 16, 2020
I responded to bernice dachshunds for a puppy from oklahoma. 750 for everything it said. Text messages and all. Scammed. No puppy. No refund. They wanted 1500 extra to ship but would be refunded.
June 19, 2020
I got scammed yesterday by this "nice" lady who said her daughter had died and they had to get rid of the pupuy. The shipping company started with $300, then$750 for insurance. He call this morning wanting another $1000 for vaccines and a health certificate. Those had supposedly been provided by the owner. I told him to call her. Of course she could't pay. when I refused he hung up on me, naturely. Luckily I had paid for the gift cards with my credit card and my bank removed the charges. They still got the money, but at least it did't cost me anything!
October 30, 2020
Almost fell for this: Bichon Frise puppy named it away because it belonged to my daughter who died recently. This was on Craigslist. All you have to do is to pay shipping - $300. I did a reverse image search of the pictures lizajohnson 54784 @ sent me. Turns out the pictures were taken off the internet. They've sold Rick and Nina several times. Look up uship. com and you will find they've been shipping the same dogs for at least a year. I didn't fall for it, but it was close. If you say you live nearby and can pick up the dog, they've suddenly got an emergency and have to leave immediately. When I declined the offer, the person swore at me in the email. I have tracked much of their information. Be cautious. If they won't give you their full names and phone numbers and you don't speak to them live, don't agree to anything. Contact a breeder where you can meet and see the dog. You will pay a little more, but maybe not. If the Nina and Rick scammers have your credit card, they will continue to steal your money.
July 12, 2020
I have been told a story from a Jerry William's from Winnipeg, ontario of how he is sick with stage 4 liver cancer and will give his dog for free if I etransfer him $500cad for shipping I requested a phone call and it didnt seem right to an emt traceable? I think it could be a scam but am not certain
September 24, 2020
Joseph Michael Carter. That’s what the drivers license said. I lost $500.00 to this scammer. Looking for a puppy/puppies for the wife. Pomeranians. He sent pics and everything. I’m not sure how cash app goes but it has to be linked to someone. I’ll find out if there is any way I can get these people dealt with.
September 27, 2020
Does anyone know about elite poodle puppies? I ordered a puppy from there for $750 and then had to pay $1285 for a puppy crate. He was supposed to be delivered yesterday but didn't arrive so today they told me to pay another $1800 for travel insurance. Does this sound like a scam? I'm so disappointed in this!!
September 27, 2020
I just got scam for 2 yorkie from craglist . Uship portland oregon said they was sending the dog now it got to a accident and if i want my refund i have to send 500 so corporate can send my money thu western union
September 30, 2020 is a scam site. They sell me this puppy and then they keep asking me for more money. Even delivery was up to them for the price I pay.
February 10, 2021
Has anyone dealt with being scammed by paneteacups I may have just bern s by them
July 20, 2021
has any one ever heard of Joyful Pet Express , i'm looking to get a yorkie and found a person giving 2 away just had to pay for the shipping from CA which is 500 , now everything seems on the up in up but i cant fin no review on the shipping company bit they do have a site.. they sent us a video of the puppy in the crate and all BUT my spidey senses is like keep checking
Terry murphy
August 16, 2021
I purchased a puppy from Angel’s chihauha in the US for $500 and $850 for transport fee now they want more. No way i figured it out got scammed, they wouldn’t give me any flight info or where she’s coming from.
September 08, 2021
They sent me there phone number #678-856-7166 and zip code #30044 from Lawrenceville Georgia?
December 02, 2021

In reply to by Edna

Was this a scam? I am looking at puppy on the internet from the same phone number and they want 350.00 deposit even thought I said I could pick her up in 2 days.