Don’t fall for internet puppy scams

Staff report - [email protected]

TOLEDO — As consumers are confined in their homes during the coronavirus pandemic, increasing numbers are excited to add a beautiful puppy to their family. But BBB warns that the internet is filled with fake breeders and puppy scams that cheat consumers out of millions of dollars each year.

New complaints are being received by BBBs around the country.

For example, Cleveland BBB officials said recent victims in their area include a family in Bay Village who wanted to purchase a beagle puppy from a company called Hazard beagles; Westpark resident who picked a King Charles Cavalier dog from King Charles Empire and another Cleveland resident who was interested in a West Highland Terrier puppy from Atela Westies.

An extensive BBB study from 2017 reported that up to 85 percent of purebred dogs and puppies advertised by supposed breeders on the internet are fake. They use very convincing web pages and Facebook sites to show puppies being bred, fed and exercised in attractive settings. But many of these web sites are fake, and the puppies they show are stock photos pulled off the net.

Consumers view these realistic-looking web sites and eagerly apply to purchase the puppies. The scammer will have the victim wire money to the supposed animal breeder in order to make the purchase of the dog or kitten they have seen online. The fake animal breeders tell the potential buyers the money is needed for the purchase, delivery and transportation of the dog or kitten. But after the victims sends money, they are usually asked for additional money to ship the animal. No matter how much money is sent, the victims never receive the puppy or kitten. The whole purchase is a scam.

The BBB Study of a scam in 2017 gave important warnings about buying a purebred puppy from an online breeder.

  • Do Not Purchase Puppies Sight Unseen — Don’t buy a pet without seeing it in-person first. While this may be hard to do while adhering to current health guidelines, it’s still possible to visit a breeder and see puppies while still maintaining social distancing measures. Also, ask a breeder if they are willing to do Facetime or video conferencing. While this is not a preferred method, it’s still a way to validate the breeder has actual possession of the animals.
  • Do A Reverse Image Search of Animal Pictures — Conduct a reverse image search for photographs on the internet by using sites such as Google or Search pictures of the pet you are considering. Be careful if the same picture appears on multiple websites, because you may be dealing with fraud.
  • Don’t Wire Money — Don’t pay a breeder with a money order. Instead, use a credit card or PayPal in case you need to dispute the charges later.
  • Search for previous complaints. Research the business at Also, do a Google search of the business name followed by “complaints,” “reviews,” or “scam” and see what pops up. If you find other people have been cheated by this business, steer clear.
  • Check Local Animal Shelters — Call local animal shelters and rescue groups. These entities can help individuals find adoptable animals.

The BBB is fully open and handling consumer questions, complaints and customer reviews. All staff are working from their homes and working through phone calls, email and live chat. Consumers checking out internet ads or having questions should call 419-578-6000. Internet questions should be directed to [email protected] The BBB website with live chat is

Staff report

[email protected]