How to Spot a Puppy Scammer

Scams are everywhere nowadays, and the puppy market is no exception. Puppy scammers are prevalent in two ways: fake litters and fake breeders (puppies sourced from puppy mills). As with finding any responsible breeder, you must ask questions. Asking questions is the easiest way to not only find your perfect pup but also ensure that you’re not dealing with a puppy scammer. The good news is that you can easily spot a puppy scammer by doing your research and avoiding the following red flags.

How to Spot Puppy Scammers

Fake Puppy Sales

Puppy scammers will often place ads for fake litters on the internet. These scammers are looking for you to submit payment, and then they disappear. Easily spot these scammers by paying attention to the following patterns:

No phone number

Puppy scammers will not want personal contact. Personal contact can be through video calls, phone calls, or in-person visits. They dont make their personal information available and will usually only want to communicate through email. Transparency is critical in a good breeder, so one who wont provide even a phone number is a big red flag.

Unsecure payment methods

The goal of any scam is to receive money and then disappear without consequence. Wiring money or using untraceable payment methods makes it very difficult to track and reverse a fraud. Pay with a credit card or PayPal. If you meet the breeder in person, then using cash is okay, but only after youve established that they are a responsible breeder.

The use of stock photos

One of the easiest ways to spot a scammer is through stock photos. In some cases, this can be more difficult, but if youre looking for a Yorkie and the breeder uses the first image that pops up on google, steer clear. If the photo used seems sketchy, ask questions and ask to see the pup youre interested in. If youre unsure of the credibility of the picture, ask to meet the puppy in-person.

Unreasonably low price

Puppy scammers love luring people by advertising withunreasonably low prices or even free puppies. These scammers may offer some excuse, such as the pup belonged to a loved one who passed away. The cost of well-bred puppies may seem high, but it is well worth the investment. Paying full price for a pup helps ensure good genetics and a healthy, socialized dog. In the case of puppy scammers, they label their fake litter or pup as free, accept the payment, and then disappear.

Mail-order pups

Pet shipping always comes with some risks. In some instances, its reasonable to ship a pup if the perfect breeder is across the country, and theres no way for you to make it there to bring the pup home. However, make sure to have video contact with this breeder at the very least. Ask them the same questions you would ask any responsible breeder. To spot this scam, ask for proof and dont send payment without first establishing that the breeder is genuine.

Fake Breeders

Fake breeders are those who pose as reputable while sourcing their pups from puppy mills. The easiest way to spot this scam is to ask questions and request documented proof of the pups pedigree.

Start by asking any breeder if they bred the pups themselves and ask about their experience.

Whenever you buy a pup, you should try to see the breeder in person and see how the puppy is raised. Additionally, it would be best if you asked to see the pups parents. Not only does this show you how the pup will grow, but it will also give proof that the breeder in question bred the dogs themselves. Fake breeders dont know who their pups’ parents are because they sourced the pup from a puppy mill. They also dont know much about the dogs health history and genetic purity.

Ask to see the whole litter of pups. Seeing the entire litterensures that there is indeed a litter and that the breeder is genuine. Many puppy mill-sourced dogs are separated from their littermates and sold individually. These fake breeders may go as far as claiming the pup youre looking at is purebred and healthy, manipulate pictures, and then offer a sickly puppy that looks nothing like what was advertised.

After asking questions, ensure that you get documentation and sign a sales contract. A health guarantee is another great sign of a responsible breeder, and its something that fake breeders cant offer as they will typically cut off contact once the transaction is complete.


If youre having trouble finding trusted breeders, turn to the Barkd app (Apple, Android). Barkd helps connect you with trusted breeders, matches you with the perfect pup, and offers secure payment. You wont have to worry about spotting a scammer because all breeders on the app get vetted to establish credibility!



AKC, How to Spot a Puppy Scam Online.

ASPCA, When It Comes to Online Puppies, What You See Is Not What You Get.

IPATA, Current Pet Scams.

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