FBI warns of puppy purchase scams as Christmas nears

Officials said scammers take advantage of people by offering up the “perfect” pet for a fee.
FILE(Animal Allies)
Published: Dec. 11, 2022 at 10:56 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Are you thinking of buying a puppy for a loved one this holiday season? The Federal Bureau of Investigation warned that some people are looking to leave you with an empty wallet and no puppy.

“Puppy purchase scams are becoming a favorite among scammers,” the FBI posted. “Criminals use social media or other websites to offer puppies for sale and take money but never deliver the animal.”

Officials said scammers take advantage of people by offering up the “perfect” pet for a fee.

“You’ll find ads offering litters of puppies, especially on websites and listservs online,” the Federal Trade Commission stated. “But once you pay, your supposed pet and the ‘breeder’ will vanish, along with your cash.”

The FTC provides ways to spot similar scams before falling victim to them:

  • 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 the scams, report it on the FTC website.