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Thinking about getting a new dog or cat? Start by learning to spot the scams. Consumer.ftc.govThis has been National Adoption Week for pets, and by now, thousands of dogs and cats might have new homes in the hearts of many thousands of people. But as the holidays approach, scammers know that families are hearing about their kids’ NEED for a dog or cat. And scammers are ready to take advantage by offering up that perfect pet — for a fee. You’ll find ads offering litters of puppies, especially, on websites and listservs online. But once you pay, your supposed pet and the “breeder” will vanish, along with your cash. Here are ways to spot those puppy and pet scammers and stop them in their tracks.

  • Start with a local rescue or animal shelter. A quick online search will point you to them, where you’ll be able to adopt for a small fee. There are even rescues for specific breeds, so check them out, too.
  • Check out the rescue, shelter, or breeder. Search online for their name, plus words like “complaint” or “scam.” See what others have to say about them.
  • Check out the photos. Are the pics of the available cute puppies and kitties just stock pictures? Or are they copies taken from somewhere else? Do a reverse image search to see. If they’re either, move on.
  • Have an in-person or video visit. Legit rescues, shelters, and breeders alike want to make sure you and your new pet are a good match. They’ll encourage an in-person or video meeting. If they don’t want you to visit, video chat, or even talk by phone, move on to someone else.
  • Watch how you’re asked to pay. Nobody legit will ever require you to pay by gift card, wire transfer service like MoneyGram or Western Union, or cryptocurrency. And paying by cash transfer services, like Venmo, makes it hard to get your money back. So stick with a credit card, if you have one, for the most protections if something goes wrong.

If you spot one of these scams, tell the FTC at All the cats and dogs of the FTC wish you well in adding a new family member to your home.

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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 12, 2021
Thanks for the heads-up. Just proves there is no depth too low for the low-lifes.
November 12, 2021
Some shelters charge well over $100 for a dog, definitely less then for a AKC breed puppy but still not a "small" fee.
November 12, 2021
I wish people would adopt and not buy animals like this, period. So many need good homes and while I can respect LEGIT breeders- save a life, don't create more.
November 12, 2021
November 13, 2021
I’m grateful that you put these together. I’ve always been nervous about getting dogs online for this exact reason. My pups are older so we couldn’t do live videos or anything, but super handy for everyone now! We’ve only ever gone to shelters, and have found our incredible, loving, one of a kind children each time!
Dog lover
November 17, 2021
Another thing to watch out for: Dogs or Puppies from overseas. Just because they say that, doesn't make it so. However, the 'small fee' can be thousands of dollars because of transportation costs. Be very careful. Also, if you look at websites dedicated to pet adoption, pay attention to the names of the groups that advertise there and what type, age, size animals they offer. Having followed one website for over a year, I have found many rescues that appear to be breeders, instead of a rescue. Personally, I stick to local shelters where I can visit the animal, and then decide if it's right for me. If it isn't the right match, don't worry, it will make a great match for someone else.