How to Spot and Avoid a Pet Scam: A Guide for Future Pet Owners

Are you looking to adopt a new furry friend? While the excitement is real, so is the possibility of falling into a pet scam, especially in today's digital age where cute puppy photos flood our social media feeds. It's crucial to navigate these waters carefully to ensure that your excitement doesn’t lead to heartache—and an empty wallet.

That said, we’ll help you learn how to spot a puppy scammer, how to avoid a pet scam, what to do when you identify a scam, and finding a pet safely, including how to buy a dog online without getting scammed.

How to Spot a Puppy Scammer

How to Avoid a Pet Scam - How to Spot a Puppy Scammer

Online pet scammers will post fake listings for pets that may not exist, or may exaggerate the qualities of a pet to extort money from unsuspecting animal lovers. From phantom puppy shipping services to miraculous deals on purebreds, these pet scams can vary, but their goal is the same: to take your money without delivering the promised pet.

So, here is how to spot a puppy scammer:

Too-Good-to-Be-True Prices

If the price seems remarkably low for a breed that usually costs much more, it could be a lure to attract buyers. Remember, quality breeders invest significantly in the health and well-being of their animals, which is reflected in their pricing.

Upfront Payments

How to Avoid a Pet Scam - How to Spot a Puppy Scammer

Be wary if the seller insists on upfront payment, especially through wire transfers or gift cards. These are nearly impossible to trace or refund, leaving you vulnerable to fraud without any recourse.

No Physical Access

If you can’t meet the puppy or kitten before buying, think twice. Reliable sellers agree to visits, and refusing this can often mean there’s something they don’t want you to see.

Pressure Tactics

Scammers often create a sense of urgency, like claiming that multiple buyers are interested to rush you into paying. This tactic is designed to push you into making a quick decision without proper vetting.

Sketchy Websites

Poorly designed websites with broken English, stock photos, and no physical address are suspicious. A legitimate breeder or seller will have a well-maintained site that provides clear, verifiable information.

How to Avoid a Pet Scam

How to Avoid a Pet Scam

You need the best defense against the increasing sophistication of pet scams. Equip yourself with the necessary tools to avoid falling prey to deceit. Discover how to avoid a pet scam:

Do Your Homework

Research the breeder or seller extensively. Look for online reviews or ratings on independent platforms.

Ask for Proof

How to Avoid a Pet Scam - Ask For Proof

Request to see the pet via a video call, and ask for recent photos with a timestamp.

Use Secure Payment Methods

Pay via services that offer fraud protection. Avoid methods that don’t allow you to track or reverse the transaction once sent.

Steps to Take If You Encounter a Pet Scam

How to Avoid a Pet Scam - Steps to Take If You Encounter a Pet Scam

Cease Communication

If red flags arise, stop all interaction with the seller.

Report It

Notify websites where the scammer is advertising and file a report with your local consumer protection agency.

Spread the Word

Sharing your experience on social media or pet forums can prevent others from falling victim to the same scam.

Creating a Safe Plan to Find a Pet

How to Avoid a Pet Scam - Creating a Safe Plan to Find a Pet

Finding a pet safely online or offline is about strategy:

Visit Local Shelters

Often the safest and most rewarding way to find a pet is to adopt from a local shelter. You can meet multiple pets in need of homes.

Use Reputable Sources

If you prefer a specific breed, contact registered breeders with verifiable reputations or consider breed-specific rescue groups.

See Before You Pay

Are you always wondering how to buy a dog online without getting scammed? Well, never pay for a pet you haven’t met in person. This simple rule can save you from most pet scams.


Ready to find your new best friend? Start your journey with a visit to your local animal shelter or browse reputable breeders and rescues. Equip yourself with knowledge, and remember, if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Happy pet hunting!

Visit Dr. Jeff Werber’s Instagram account (@werbs_dvm) to view and submit questions and answers on weekly AMAs – or call and leave a voicemail at 424-835-0576. Your call will be returned posthaste. For emergencies, download Dr. Jeff Werber’s app Airvet, a video-chat option for veterinary needs at any time of day or night!