searching online for a dog they want find a Web
site or ad offering puppies for sale and send
e-mails or call the breeders requesting ones they
want. Shain says it's common for the scammers
to send you photos of the puppies they're shipping
to you, but the pictures may not be the dogs you
"Sending you a photograph doesn't mean they have that puppy," she says. "It's just a picture of a puppy."
Scammers count on people not wanting to send puppies back, even if they are different from the ones they ordered. Who is going to send a puppy back?
The animal you receive might be from a puppy mill, a factory-like place that produces large numbers of puppies in cramped, unsavory conditions for sheer profit. These puppies can come with severe health and behavioral problems.
And that's if you actually receive the dog.
April Buck of Grain Valley, Mo.,
was looking for an English bulldog puppy when
she found a Web site offering one -- named Buck
-- and wired $1,200 through Western Union to Miami
to pay for the dog and its shipment.
The seller then asked her to pay another $300 for a DNA test that the airport supposedly required. She refused to send the money and contacted local authorities, the FBI and even Western Union about the scam with no luck.
"We didn't get our puppy but he kept our money," she says. "We lost a total of $1,289 to be exact. It cost us $89 to send the money."
Buck says the seller had a normal-looking Web site, claimed he had been in the business for 11 years and said the puppies were AKC-registered.
"I thought that meant these people were screened," Buck says. As it turns out, the AKC had never heard of the seller.
In any case, the AKC is just a registry, says Shain, not a quality control organization.
"If you don't know anything about the Web, don't buy anything off the Web," Buck says.
Where to report a scam: