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If you are of a certain age, you may remember the way that we used to buy puppies. We’d hear about someone whose dog had a litter, and we’d take a walk or a drive over to take a look. Or we’d read ads in the newspaper, or check out notice boards at our local pet shop, feed store, or even supermarket. Then we’d do the same thing, make a trip to check out the puppies in person.
Most of the time, we’d find our puppies locally. If we were looking for a specific breed, we might check out newspapers from other communities, or even a neighboring state. In every single instance, though, we’d see the puppy (and probably the parents as well) before committing to make a purchase.
Things have changed. Today, the whole world is our marketplace. We rely on the Internet for so much. We buy clothes, appliances, DVDs, books, and yes, even dogs, online. On the one hand, this enables us to communicate with people who have what we want no matter where they are in the world. On the other, when we’re looking to buy a dog or puppy, it also opens us up to dog scammers. These are people who represent themselves as having puppies or dogs for sale. Much of the time, the animals don’t even exist. You end up laying out money, and never seeing the dog you were promised. So, how do you identify dog scammers and protect yourself against them?
Most of the time, dog scammers will represent themselves as being in the United States or Canada. They will claim that they are reputable breeders, but a lot of the time, they are from foreign countries, and don’t even own a dog. They post ads, often on reputable sites. By the time they are revealed as scammers and their ads are taken down, the damage is already done – you have sent them money for a non-existent dog.
Sometimes, too, they will even go to the trouble of setting up web pages, representing themselves as operating an “AKC approved kennel.” Usually, the page looks legitimate, and contains a number of pictures of beautiful puppies who are just waiting for “approved families” to give them their “forever homes.” Perhaps you will fall in love with the pictures, and begin to communicate with the scammer, and believe me, these people know exactly how to play you.
Much of the time, dog scammers are operating out of other countries. You’ve probably gotten emails from Nigerian scammers. You know, the ones that go “Hello my dear, my name is Mrs. Goodluck Daniel, and I am writing to you because you have been represented to me as a person of good character. I am dying of cancer….” and on it goes. You know better to respond to that sort of thing, but when it comes to a puppy, you have the blinders on. Nigerian scammers do dog scams, too, so be careful.
The pictures look great, don’t they? The scammer will tell you that he has only one puppy left, and someone else interested in it, but if you can send him a deposit via Western Union, he will hold the puppy for you. You send the money, and then you never hear from the scammer again. You don’t get your puppy, because there never was one.
If you had run the pictures through Google’s image search, you’d probably have found that they were stolen from legitimate sites. Sometimes, the pictures are even of dogs that are long dead. Just as an example, if you visited http://ravinwoodfarm.blogspot.com, you’d see a picture of a Pekingese named Hershey who has been dead for 11 years. His photo shows up on scam sites to this day. So, how can you make sure that the dog you’re thinking of buying really exists?
If you think something is off, request a photo of the dog with something dated in the shot – a newspaper with a current date, for instance. Even then, be careful – we all know about the wonders of Photoshopping. Ask for several shots of the dog, with the same identifier in the picture.
Even if it sounds good, I’d still be very wary. What you need to know is that when you get taken in by a scammer in a foreign country, you will almost certainly never get your money back. It’s almost impossible to catch them, and even if they are identified, the United States will not be able to prosecute them, and the country they’re operating out of will be unwilling to do so.
So, how do we identify these people? What can we do about dog scamming? The key is education. If we know what they’re doing, they won’t be able to scam us. They won’t be able to make money from us. And we’ll avoid the heartbreak of thinking that we’re going to end up with the dog of our dreams and getting nothing, and we’ll also avoid financial distress.
1. Look at the Website Very Carefully
A lot of the time, dog scammers aren’t a bit brighter than they need to be. First off, they’re harvesting pictures from other websites. So, as previously stated, use Google’s image search and see if the photos of your supposed puppy show up elsewhere.
2. Check Out the Photo Captions
Is that female Doberman really female? If it has ‘nads and a penis, obviously something is off. Is the dog stated to be one breed, but clearly another? That’s another huge red flag.
3. Ask for More Photos
Can the supposed breeder provide you with a photo of the puppy you are considering at an earlier age? Genuine breeders will take pictures of their litter practically from birth. If none are forthcoming, the photos have likely been stolen from other sites, and the puppy probably does not exist.
4. Check Out the Text
Copy and paste some of the text from the website into Google. Is there another site with the exact same words? Someone stole those words.
5. Does the Website Have Its Own Domain?
If the website is on a free server, bail and don’t look back. Otherwise, enter the domain address into www.DNStuff.com. Use the “WHOIS” function. What country comes up?
6. Check Out the Phone Number
Is there a phone number that you can use to contact the supposed breeder? Most of the time, if you’re dealing with a dog scammer, you won’t even be able to speak to a person. This is because they’re in another country, the long distance charges would be astronomical.
7. Listen Carefully
You’ll usually identify a scammer right off because of their fractured English.
Some scammers will also pretend to be partially deaf, or have had dental work as an explanation for why they’re not communicating well.
8. Avoid Free Ads
Good breeders will be more than willing to post ads within their breed groups. Most of the time, they’re not going to be on Craigslist, or other free sites. Sometimes, scammers will infiltrate legitimate sites, but they’re usually quickly discovered and their ads are removed.
9. Read Your Communications Carefully
In addition to fractured language on the phone, you’ll get it in written communications. Emails will also be full of inconsistencies. Often, because of the overwhelming desire to get a puppy, people will overlook huge communication issues, and absolute bull crap. In fact, this is where so many people end up getting scammed that I’m going to devote another section to it.
You’re like Agent Mulder in the X-files – “I want to believe.” In fact, you want so badly to believe that you are going to get your puppy that you’ll completely overlook any number of red flags in email communications from your supposed “breeder” or “seller.” I’ve condensed a few of these emails for the sake of brevity, but these are actual communications from dog scammers to real people who got taken, or nearly got taken. Read on.
1. The Yorkie
Thank you for interest in pet. Puppy is very available for adopt. Little girl, 2.4 pounds and 12 weeks, and he potty trained. Friendly with children, fit in palm of hand, registered AKC, wonderful personalities and bloodlines, vet check, current shot, deformed. I am now deploy in Great Lack Cameroon on Christian mission with family, puppy with us, we ship express delivery next day through shipping agent. Lovely puppy coming with health paper work, but please, if you not take very good care of my baby, do not reply, I give only for adoption because no time take care of her due to mission work.
I send you one year health guarantee, shot book, vet record, toys and foods. You send email right away and tell me, are you breeder, married, have kids, what is your job, you have vet? Send answers by soonest email. May God’s blessings be upon you.
Ooohkay… so first off, it’s a girl. And he is potty trained. Great. He’s deformed, too! I’d assume the emailer means “de-wormed.” Don’t even think about this one. Just look at the detailed back story that just screams “fiction.” And the English – this is not a Christian missionary; it’s a Nigerian scammer. Next thing you get from him will be a request for money via Western Union transfer to help ship this supposed puppy. After all, he’s a missionary; he doesn’t have a whole lot of bucks; and he only wants what’s best for his “baby.”
2. The English Bulldog
Thank you for your response to my ad! I am so very happy to hear from you, and I have been crying for weeks wondering what I will be able to do for my dog. Thank God there are people like you who love dogs and will rescue those in war-torn countries. My name, which I did not state in my ad, is Sergeant Jon Walters. I am currently deployed in Afghanistan. As you can imagine, things here are very volatile and I am worried about my dog’s safety. I hope that you will take care of her – please promise me that you will love her and look after her as soon as you receive her at your location.
Because I am on a classified mission, I am not permitted to send money out of the country. I hate having to ask you this, but I would do anything for my dog. If you can send me $400 US by Western Union transfer, I can send my beautiful girl to you. I will happily pay you back the money, with interest, once I am back stateside – all I care about right now is getting my dog out of Afghanistan.
Please send me your shipping information right away, and let me know where the nearest airport is. I will ship my baby girl out by AAAA cargo, and the airline will bring her right to our door. I am attaching a picture of my girl – you can see how beautiful she is, and I know that you will take great care of her. I won’t ask you to give her back when I get home – all I care about right now is her safety. I can’t thank you enough for what you are doing for me.
Well. First off, I’m pretty sure that soldiers going to Afghanistan are not permitted to take pet dogs along, so that’s a red flag right out of the gate. Gotta say, though, this guy’s English is a lot better than most scammers. If it wasn’t for the AAAA cargo thing, I might almost have believed him.
The thing is, there is no such thing as AAAA cargo. There is only cargo for dog shipments. No enhanced service. And airlines will not ever, ever, ever, deliver to your door. You pick up animals at the freight facility.
I’m rating this one as not even a half-decent try, except for the language.
3. The Shih-Tzu with No Address
Hi, thanks so much for responding to my ad on Craigslist! You know from what I said in the ad that I’m leaving an abusive relationship, and I have to re-home my Shih-Tzu or have him put to sleep, and I’m so glad I’ve found you! Doodles is such a sweet little boy, but I can’t take him with me because my new landlord won’t allow pets, and besides, I’m scared my ex will track me down and try to hurt him cuz he’s said any number of times that he would. I’m so scared and I really, really hope that you can help me! So if you can help me I’d be really grateful. And I hope you can. And I’d be grateful. I can’t give you my phone number cuz my ex is constantly watching me. But if you can give me your banking information, I’ll send you the money to ship Doodles to you. You’ll have to take him COD. And of course I don’t want you to be out any money since you’re doing this for me. I don’t know why I have to do COD, that’s just what my dog shipper says. But you won’t be out anything cuz I’ll pay you. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that you’re willing to help me, and Doodles is a great dog, I know you’re going to love her as much as I do!
Again, there’s the “her”/“him” thing. And a request for your banking information? Look, there are any number of legitimate rescue sites. The last thing you need is to be taken in by a scammer like this. There is no Doodles. There never was.
I have dogs for sale. My problem is that I just love dogs, and I end up with a lot of them that are given to me. I can’t feed all of them without selling some, but I only sell to good, approved homes. So, here’s what I have. I have Afghans, Airedales, Pit Bulls, Belgian Mastiffs, Bull Mastiffs, Cane Corsos, Chihuahuas, Leopard Dogs, Dalmations, English Bulldogs, Dobermans, Fox Terriers, Wire Haired Terriers, Yourkshire Terrriers, Alaskan Malamutes, English Mastiffs, Dogues de Bordeaux, Cairn Terriers, Chinese Chow Chows, Springer Spaniels, Irish Setters, Golden Retrievers, Weimarners, Greyhounds, Beagles, Great Danes, Lhasa Aspos, Malterse, Tibetan Mastiffs, Scottish Terriers, Whippets, and Xoloitzcuintilis!
What???? Just wait a second, who is this person? I actually saw this ad online, and believe me, I’ve condensed his list of dogs that he supposedly has for sale by about a good two-thirds. This is not real on any level, and how could anyone ever fall for it? And yet people do fall for dog scams every day, out of the need to add to their family, feel as though they’re doing something good by rescuing a dog, or whatever other unfathomable motivation.
Here’s the thing .You can get a good dog in the United States, and probably even in your own community. There are tons of rescue organizations and animal shelters that are always trying to place good dogs in good homes. You don’t need to look around online and find questionable offerings.
A friend of mine, Wendy, used to do pet bookings for United Airlines, and I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times she’d tell me that she had to tell people that they’d been scammed. “United doesn’t deliver to your door, I’m sorry, but you’ve been scammed.” Or “United doesn’t ship into his location; we don’t take pets at that airport.” Finally, she ended up asking for a transfer out of pet booking to regular cargo because she just couldn’t stand breaking peoples’ hearts anymore.
It’s easy to get suckered. You want to help a dog, and the scammer has a really good story. But the fact is, the puppy that you’re considering might not even exist. You’re so much better off looking locally, trying to find a dog or a puppy in your own neighborhood who really needs a good home. If you buy into these horribly worded websites with ISPs that are obviously not in your area, then you’re just setting yourself up to lose a lot of money and end up with no dog.
There are puppies available here at home. You can find one. In fact, there’s a book available at Amazon – The Everything New Puppy Book: Choosing, Raising, and Training Your New Best Friend. It’s by Carlo De Vito and Amy Ammen, and readers really seem to like it, since it has a 4.6 out of 5 star rating at Amazon. The list price is $15.95, but you can get it for $12.85. It won’t tell you how to avoid being scammed, but it will give you a lot of guidance on how to choose the puppy that is right for you, and train him to become a valued member of your household.