Detecting Internet Scams

Detecting Internet Scams

Targeting Puppy Buyers

There are a lot of scammers posing as breeders, pretending to sell fictitious puppies. They take your deposit and you never hear from them again. These scammers are usually running out of foreign countries, posing as USA or Canadian breeders selling adorable little puppies, when in fact they don't even own a dog themselves, let alone have a puppy to sell. The vast majority of breeders advertising puppies for sale are legitimate breeders, however you must keep your guard up for these scam ”breeders.”

How can you tell if the breeder you are dealing with is for real and not one of those scams running out of countries such as Nigeria or other foreign countries?

A lot of these scammers create a website or classified ad page to sell their so-called "puppies." They steal images and text off of actual breeder websites. At first glance their websites look really legit. You fall in love with the picture, contact the scammer and begin to talk to them about purchasing the adorable little puppy. Eventually you send them a deposit via usually Western Union, and you suddenly never hear from them again. You never receive your puppy, because there was no puppy, and you just lost your money.

A good way to determine if a picture of a dog or puppy posted for sale is really for sale, or is simply a stolen picture, is to ask the seller to send you a picture of that same dog or puppy with something in the picture that you can identify, such as a piece of paper with the date written on it, or even with your own name written on it. Beware of doctored pictures, so ask to see different shots of the same dog in different poses with your identifiable object in the picture.

Because these scammers are running out of third-world countries, catching them is difficult to almost impossible. So what can we do about these scams? We can educate ourselves on how to detect them, and not fall for it. If scammers can't scam us, they won’t make money and we all know it's the money that is driving them to do it.

Useful tips on detecting a scammer posing as a breeder

1.     Look at the website very closely for clues. For example, these scammers are stealing pictures from other websites and adding their own descriptions under them. One website pretending to sell Beagle puppies had a photo of a dog that was clearly not a Beagle puppy. They also had photos of male puppies and under the photo claimed the dog to be a female or vice versa.

2.     Ask to see more photos of the same puppy from different angles. Ask to see a picture of the same puppy when it was a few weeks younger. Can the breeder produce them?

3.     One reason these scam websites look so legit is because they are stealing text from real breeder websites. Copy and paste a sentence or two from the site in question into a Google search with quotes around the text, for example, if they have a list of references. The quotes tell Google to look for those exact words in the same order as you have typed them. If you find another website with those same exact words on it, a red flag should go up. Either the site you are investigating has stolen the words, OR they have had their words stolen from them.

4.     If the website has its own domain name and is not a free website such as GeoCities, etc., take the domain name address and go to

Put the domain name into the "WHOIS Lookup." Does the country in the domain name record match the address the website has as their contact info? Keep in mind, hosting companies are often within the same country as the site owner, but not necessarily inside the same state or town. They rarely, if ever, however use a company outside their own country.

5.     Does the website have a phone number down as a contact? And if so, have you been able to speak to a real person? Most scammers will not get on the phone. One, because their English is very bad, and two, the phone bill would be very high since they are in a different country than you are. Also, with caller ID, they do not want to take the risk you can tell they are not out of the area they claim to be out of. Some of these scammers pretend to be deaf or have another odd reason why they cannot talk, getting a relay operator to relay their messages for them. Relay operators are not allowed to reveal it is a scam. By law they can only relay the message without giving their own input.

6.     Take the area code of the phone number listed on the site and enter it into the Reverse Area Code. Does the area match the area the breeder claims to be out of?

7.      Looking at the Google cached pages can be helpful in viewing expired ad pages. Sometimes you will discover the same email address has claimed to be in many different areas of a country. For example, one email address may appear selling English Bulldog puppies out of New York State in the USA and also appear selling puppies in California inside the USA. This is a clear warning sign of a scam.

8.     Does the "breeder" you have contacted communicate in broken English? Since most of these scammers are working out of foreign countries, their English is not very good. They will usually have many spelling and grammar errors in their emails.

9.     A red flag should go up if the scammer will only take their payment via Western Union, or another odd form of payment.

10.   If the breeder emails you look at the long header of the email for the "received from" IP number. Look up the IP number to see the area the email came from.

If you have a bad feeling about a "breeder," it is best to steer clear. Go elsewhere for your purchase. If you use your common sense and do not ignore any warning signs, you can usually tell if it is a real breeder on the other end. Let’s not contribute to a scammer’s booming business.


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