Many people are looking for a dog; and, unable to find exactly what they want close to home, they often look online, where they will find fancy websites offering every type of dog imaginable.
A lot of the websites are quite glossy, with pictures of adorable dogs that are beautiful and healthy and looking for a good home. While many of these sites are legitimate, some are out to scam you, so if you decide to acquire a dog online, do your homework and be careful.
“Puppy scams continue to show up on our Scam Tracker website,” says Evan Kelly, senior communications advisor for the Better Business Bureau serving Mainland BC. “It’s still a thing. They set up a very glossy-looking website with pictures of cute puppies.”
The breeders are usually not located in your area, so the dog must be delivered by a pet-shipping company. The purchaser is asked to pay for insurance and cage rental fees, with payment usually being asked for via a pre-paid Visa card or a money transfer. Then the purchaser is contacted and told that the dog is at the airport, but needs another round of vaccinations before it can be shipped. In some cases, the cost of these “vaccinations” is more than $5,000.
The purchaser is told that 95 per cent of the fees and vaccination costs will be refunded when the dog is delivered. However, Kelly stresses that the dog is never delivered. “They just keep bilking you for money. But some people fall into the trap because they want a certain type of dog that isn’t available in their area.”
One person who fell for the scam said that she wanted to buy a Chihuahua for her mother, and found one online. The initial cost was $300 for the dog plus a $145 shipping fee; but then the shipping company contacted her to say an additional $1,820 for insurance and a cage rental fee was needed. The customer was reassured by the claim she would get 95 per cent of this back when the dog was delivered, and paid.
Then she received a call saying the dog was at the airport but needed vaccinations costing $5,580, as they had expired. This sent up a red flag for the woman, who knew the vaccinations were supposed to last three to five years and that the dog was only three months old. When she refused to pay, the caller began yelling at her and told her that the dog would stay at the airport until she paid up.
Kelly says that there are simple ways of checking to see if these websites are legitimate. “You’ll find links that don’t go anywhere,” he says. “And do a reverse Google image search to see if the images have been taken from other sites.”
Other tip-offs are websites that are riddled with misspellings and grammatical errors. Many of these scams originate overseas, and the scammers do not have a good grasp of the English language. Research the seller and obtain references; and make sure the price being asked for the dog makes sense. You can do this by checking the average price of a given breed from reputable breeders.
“We suggest adopting or buying locally,” says Kelly. Visit the owner or breeder before you pay for your puppy and can bring it home personally. Research the seller and obtain references from people who have bought puppies or dogs from them in the past. Ask for medical records and a pedigree, but be aware that if the seller or breeder is dishonest the paperwork might not be accurate.