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How To Spot And Avoid A Puppy Sale Scam (plus what to do if you are conned!)

Is your family ready for a new puppy?

We are excited for you! You'll gain a cuddly companion in your home and even experience better health. For example, research shows that: 


But be careful! 

Puppy sale scams have been a problem for a long time, and they are becoming even more rampant, even post-Covid-19 when it can be challenging to arrange in-person visits. 

You also want to avoid patronizing a puppy mill - you would be enabling an inhumane business, and there's a good chance your puppy would suffer from fear and behavior issues for its entire adult life. 

At Infinity Pups, we understand your fear and frustration. We want to help you have an excellent experience buying and owning your puppy!  

Thankfully, you can avoid losing your money in a scam, and make sure you buy from a reputable breeder with just a few tips. 

Let's get started and figure out what they are!

Common Puppy Scams To Avoid

The Better Business Bureau, a nonprofit that tracks consumer fraud, has recorded more than 2,100 online puppy scams in the United States and Canada from mid-February 2020 to the end of July 2020. That number was up from 700 during the same period in 2019. 

Some scammers build elaborate custom websites with dozens of fake photos and testimonials. Others spam Craigslist with fake dog postings. 

How can you avoid puppy scams? 

First off, here are a few common puppy scams you should watch out for: 

The “I Don’t Have Enough Time” Scam


Some scammers may present themselves as dog lovers who no longer have adequate time to spend with their pets because they got too busy or experienced a life change. 

puppy scammer present themselves as dog lovers

 For many real puppy lovers, sob stories like this pull at the heartstrings. You want to see a puppy in a home where they get all the attention and care they need. If you are looking for a puppy yourself, it may seem like the perfect fit and a way to prevent a sad situation, such as the puppy going to a shelter or getting euthanized.    

Unfortunately, some of these "sad situations" are just ploys by scammers looking to make a quick dollar.   

Of course, everyone that is out of time and needs to get rid of their dog is not necessarily a scammer. Just be aware that it is a popular tactic that should put you on high alert.  

The "I Had To Move Because Of My Work" Scam


This is a perfect cover story for someone looking to make a shady deal.  


  1. Moving or being transferred because of work gives them a perfect excuse for getting rid of their puppy.
  2. Because they moved, their puppy is no longer with them. This allows them to request a shipping fee to ship the puppy to you. 

Again, treating any individual rudely based on a snap judgment is inappropriate. However, when you see this kind of language in a puppy ad, remain alert because it could be a scam.  

The "Upgraded Shipping Materials" Scam


You can ship a puppy safely and humanely, and it's not unreasonable to ship puppies - so it's not fair to accuse anyone asking to ship a puppy as a scammer. 

However, a common puppy scam includes an " airline " email asking you to pay extra money for your puppy's safe transportation. A common item these emails may reference is an "electronic air condition travel crate."

transportation puppy scam

If you are concerned about a puppy transportation scam, it may be a good idea to check with the  International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) 

IPATA even creates an updated list of puppy scammers, including e-mail addresses and phone numbers. It never hurts to look it up and see if your puppy dealer has been reported. 

The “Too Good To Be True” Scam


The sad truth is:

When an offer seems too good to be true - it probably is. 

Prices will vary among different breeders, but most reputable breeders have a good idea of what their puppies are worth and will not give them away for less than that. So, when you see an unreasonably low price, do exhaustive research before agreeing to anything! 

6 Warning Signs Of A Puppy Sale Scam

There are specific puppy scams you should be aware of (like the ones listed above). There are also warning signs that appear in almost all puppy scams. You can learn to spot these signs. 

Let's look at a few ways to spot a puppy scam online! 

1 - No phone calls. If a seller doesn't want to speak to you directly on the phone, you have reason to be concerned. Fraudulent sellers are often outside of the U.S. and may hide their phone numbers by email. If this is the case, it's a major red flag you should pay close attention to! 

speak to puppy sellers on the phone

2 - Copycat of stock photos. Many scammers make their ad or listing appear genuine by stealing images and text from reputable puppy breeders

In other words: 

A photo isn't enough to prove that someone is an above-board breeder. And if the picture looks like a stock photo or could be pirated from another website, it's best to do more research. 

3 - Strange or Extra Payment Requests. If your seller asks for money wiring or payment through gift cards, you should be on high alert. Alternative payment forms are a major red flag--payments like gift cards are the perfect cover because they can't be traced. 

Also, even though it makes payment easy, we caution against paying breeders through apps like Venmo or Cash App, as getting your money back is harder if needed. 

Also, keep your eyes open for "extra" or "unexpected" fees the breeder asks you to pay. It's a pretty solid sign of a scam and deserves caution. 

use caution when paying with apps like venmo

4 - Demand Immediate Payment. Please don't waste your time dealing with a breeder who demands you pay them in full before they answer your questions. This is a risky situation to place yourself in. 

Note: Sometimes puppy breeders get scammed, too - so don't blame those who ask for a down payment or ask questions to ensure you really want a puppy. 

However, if money is a prerogative, you should likely look elsewhere - even if you aren't being scammed, you want to deal with a breeder who cares more about caring for their puppies than getting a lot of money. 

5 - Sob Stories. Please understand that we believe sympathy is an outstanding character trait; without it, we would be greedy and heartless. 

However, things like deaths or family hardships in the description of a puppy ad are usually a clever way to impair your logic with emotions. And they are unnecessary for you to know when buying a puppy. Please be careful if you find an ad for puppies with unnecessary drama. 

6 - Unclear or Incorrect English. We deeply respect individuals for whom English is not their first language - and this is not a statement about any nationality in any way. 

It is true, though, that most puppy scams originate outside of the U.S. If you detect an apparent misunderstanding of grammar or language, you should pause and research before making any payments. 

6 Tips For Avoiding Puppy Sale Scams

Now you can spot the warning signs of a puppy scam. But suspecting a con is not enough - you also need to know what to do if you begin to question a seller's credibility. 

Here is how we recommend you avoid getting swindled when buying a puppy:

See The Puppy In-Person Before Paying Any Money


The old saying "seeing is believing" is pretty accurate in this case! 

If you want to be sure you are not being conned, don't settle for pictures - ask to see the puppy. 

Ideally, make an appointment to visit the litter your puppy comes from before paying any money. Understandably, some reputable breeders may ask that you not visit their home or place of business - especially during Covid-19. This doesn't necessarily mean it's a scam. 

Also, the puppy you are interested in may be located somewhere far away from you - so you can't plan an actual visit to see the litter.

In either case, it's entirely reasonable to request a video call. No scammer would allow you to see their face; of course, they wouldn't have puppies to show on video! 

request a video call before buying a puppy

Ask For Pictures Of The Parents


Fraudsters with pirated pictures from reputable breeders may be in a tight spot if you ask for photos of the puppy’s parents. 

They must pirate more photos or stop moving forward with the deal. If they hesitate to give you pictures or claim that they lost their pictures, you can be pretty confident you are dealing with a swindler. 

It’s also a good idea to ask a few specific questions about the puppy’s parents: 


It matters less that the parents have every certification available and more that the breeder is knowledgeable and courteous in responding to your questions.   

Do A Reverse Image and Text Search Of The Puppy Ad

reverse image search puppy pictures

If you are suspicious that the breeder's photos are not legit, try doing a reverse search on the image and text used in the puppy ad you view. 

If you aren't sure how to do a reverse image search, don't worry - it's relatively easy. Here is how to do it: 

Reverse image search on desktop: 

  1. Navigate to the Google Images main page.
  2. In the search bar, click on the camera icon. This will give you a new search display offering you two options.
  3. Option 1 is 'Paste Image URL,' which allows you to use the URL from an image you found online.
  4. Option 2 is 'Upload an image,' allowing you to upload an image from your computer as the search item.
  5. Whichever option you choose, after entering the URL or uploading the image, you simply click search to display the results:


The process is similar if you are doing a reverse image search using your phone. You can learn more about it by reading this article from Google Support.

Ask The Seller For References


A good breeder should be happy to give you plenty of references. After all, it's good marketing for them! 

Please don't settle for comments from the seller or quotes posted on their website. Insist on speaking to someone that is NOT them. It may be a pain in the neck, but if it helps you avoid a scam, it would be worth the bother.  

Sometimes a breeder may claim this is their first litter of puppies - which is perfectly reasonable and may be true. 

In that case, ask them to speak to the person they got their puppy from or even a friend who could vouch for their character. 

speak to a reference

NEVER Wire Money Or Send Prepaid Cards


You may think you're "securing" your claim for a dog by wiring a "deposit" or full payment in advance, but you may be getting scammed. 

Wiring money is like paying in cash; there's no way to trace it. The same goes for any gift card or prepaid card. Therefore, it's the perfect way for a scammer to cover their tracks. 

So, while it is legitimate for a breeder to ask for a down payment, don't give any money away until you've seen the puppy (either in person or on a live video chat). And especially, don't give money via cash, gift card, or wire! 

Use A Reputable Website


It is so convenient to search for puppies online. It's easy to compare prices and see a wide range of available puppies without leaving your home. 

However, avoid sites like Craigslist and other popular selling sites. 

Instead, use a site like Infinity Pups that offers a large variety of puppy breeds, is authorized, and reviews breeders through a thorough examination process. 

See the end of the article for an infographic on how to avoid puppy scams!

What To Do If You A Victim
Of A Puppy Purchase Scam

Hopefully, you are reading this before you've been tricked into giving any money away. If that's not the case, or if you ever find yourself scammed by a puppy seller, you can take a few critical steps to help cut your losses. 

  1. Contact your credit card issuer. Sometimes, a puppy scam can become a more significant issue, especially if you give a seller your credit card number. (Giving away your credit card info to any breeder is unwise.)
  2. Report the scam you experienced. It's best to immediately report what happened to you to a site like or Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker so others can avoid the same demise. 
  3. Try to get your money back. Depending on how you paid, you may be able to get your money back. It may not be easy, but depending on your spending, it's worth a try! 
what to do if you a victim of a puppy sale scam

Things to Look For In A Puppy Breeder

The number one way to avoid a nasty scam is to choose a reputable, trustworthy puppy breeder right off the bat. 

Placing a value on good breeders is also how you can support responsible breeding and avoid funding cruel puppy mills. 

So, how can you choose the right breeder to purchase a puppy from? Let’s find out! 

1 - Choose A Breeder Who Goes Above And Beyond

A reputable breeder won’t just provide you with the perfect pup. They’ll offer numerous other benefits as well: 

  • They’ll be a valuable source of knowledge and education about the breed they sell.  
  • They’ll help you select the right dog food and grooming supplies for your pup.
  • They can provide a timeline for what to expect during your dog’s puppy years and may even be able to help troubleshoot training troubles.
  • They’ll help match you with a puppy that suits your household perfectly. 
puppy breeders offer numerous benefits

2 - Choose A Breeder Who Raises One Litter At A Time 

As a dog lover, there's a good chance you know how much work it is to raise one puppy. Now, just think how much work it must be to raise several at one time! 

In other words: 

Breeders who have more than one (or two) litter of puppies "on the ground" at once might not be giving the puppies the attention they need in this critically formative time. Therefore, it's best to go with a breeder that takes it slower and gives their puppies proper care. 

3 - Choose A Breeder Who Doesn't Breed Dogs Until They Are Two Years Old

Veterinarians recommend you wait to breed a dog until it is two years old. That means that sellers who breed female dogs before two years of age are either unknowledgeable, inhumane or simply out to make a dollar. 

No matter which option they fall under, it's not the type of breeder you want to buy from. 

4 - Choose A Breeder That's Willing To Take A Puppy Back

Breeders need to watch their backs too - and they will likely ask you to sign an agreement when you buy your puppy. 

The agreement often states that you are now responsible for your puppy's health and that you will pay for all future visits to the vet. 

However, a reputable breeder also understands that things happen. If your puppy has a congenital disease or was sick before you purchased them, a breeder should take the puppy back or offer a full refund. 

returning a puppy

The Infinity Pups Guarantee

At Infinity Pups, we strive to offer you healthy puppies that will be affectionate friends for a lifetime. To do so, we offer you this guarantee:

  • A one-year health guarantee 
  • Our puppies are NEVER from a puppy mill
  • We review and screen all our breeders to make sure they are confident, knowledgeable, and humane. 
  • Safe, hassle-free, puppy delivery (if needed). 


Thankfully, working with us is incredibly simple! 

  1. Find your companion by browsing all puppy breeds or the newly added puppies for sale
  2. Interview the breeder directly
  3. Schedule your puppies for adoption
  4. Welcome your puppy home!
the infinity pups guarantee

The fear of getting conned by a puppy scam is real - but don’t let it keep you from getting a wonderful companion and friend! 

When you know how to spot a puppy scam and how to avoid them, you can find a reputable breeder who can give you a happy, healthy puppy. 

At Infinity Pups, we want to help you find the perfect puppy. We can even give tips and advice on caring for and training your puppy! (Check out our blog: 11 Things To Do When You Bring A Puppy Home). You could also read up on some of our favorite breeds: 





If you’re thinking about taking the plunge and buying a puppy, we hope you’ll reach out to us. 

Contact us today to find your puppy, or check out our breeds online. We look forward to hearing from you! 

find the perfect puppy
6 tips for avoiding puppy sale scams