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Three English Springer Spaniel puppies propped over a blue fence with a bright blue sky in the background.
Courtesy of CountryStyle Photography/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of bringing home a new puppy. Before you do, however, you have to search for the puppy of your dreams. It’s a search that often leads you online.

Before you type in the puppy breed you want, there’s one thing you need to know. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning consumers to be careful — especially if they’re shopping for a new pet.

In today’s digital world, almost everyone uses the internet for shopping, but a new BBB investigative study reveals several online puppy advertisements may be fake.

What are the Red Flags?

Photos of the dog or ad text can be found on other websites
Do an internet search for the pet you are considering. You can also search for text to see if the seller copied it from another site

The seller asks for wiring of money or payment by gift cards
Once the money is wired, there is no way to get it back. Asking for gift cards as payment is also a common sign of a fraud.

The price seems too good to be true
Research the prices for the bred you are considering ahead of time. Purebred dogs sold at deeply discounted prices are typically frauds. If the seller says they register their dogs with a specific organization, you can call the organization to confirm.

The seller prefers to handle communication by email and not the phone
Fraudulent sellers are oftentimes outside of the U.S. and may be hiding their phone number by only communicating by email.

How Many People Have Been Affected?

According to BBB data, nearly 10,000 scam reports and complaints have come in during the last three years about “businesses” selling puppies and dogs. The FTC estimates that only about 10 percent of victims report these crimes, so this number could be much higher.

Sixty percent of these reports indicated the consumers never received the pets they purchased, and others received pets that had health or genetic problems and did not receive documentation for their pet.

“Scammers love to try to take advantage of people when they are in high emotion situations,” said Steve Bernas, president and CEO of BBB serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “The excitement of buying a new pet can cloud good judgement, and victims can be hurt financially and emotionally when they realize they have lost their money, and hopes for a new pet.”

Where Can I Safely Look For a Dog?

While scammers are likely to start talking money immediately, legitimate sources will always take time and diligence to make sure the dog you are choosing is a good fit for your family.

One safe resource, the AKC Marketplace, conducts thousands of kennel inspections a year and is the only online resource to exclusively list 100% AKC puppies from AKC-registered breeders.

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Selecting a Puppy

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