The Riskiest Online Purchase You Can Make

The Better Business Bureau has released its Scam Tracker Risk Report for 2021. Once again, the type of scam that topped the list was Online Purchases.

But under the category of Online Purchases, one specific type of fraud was the most likely to cause monetary loss to victims: Puppy Scams.

Puppy Scams start with a website that looks like it was created by a legitimate dog breeder. The site will feature photos of adorable purebred puppies, all just waiting for their Forever Home.

However, when you contact the breeder, you will find out that it’s not possible to see the dogs in person. COVID-19 provided a perfect excuse for this, but the scam far predates 2020. The alleged breeder will instead offer to have the animal shipped to your home after you pay up front for the puppy, as well as the shipping costs, which will often involve air travel with another person. In some cases, they promise to refund the shipping later.

You do not need a crystal ball to predict what happens next. Once you’ve sent money to this supposed breeder, always by means that give you no protection (wire transfer, PayPal Friends & Family, peer-to-peer payment app), you end up with nothing.

Preventing this scam is simple: never buy pets online. While there are legitimate breeders who have websites, none of them are going to sell an animal over the internet and have it shipped to you. You will always be able to meet the dogs in person. There is a slight crossover with Romance Scams in this regard—as soon as you find out that meeting in person is off the table, end all contact immediately.

If you’re set on a purebred, always visit the breeder face-to-face, no exceptions. Also consider a shelter or rescue dog, who make some of the best companions you’ll find anywhere.