Beware: The "Free Puppy" Scam Bites!

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

I recently received a call from a consumer who feared she might have fallen for a scam when she responded to an advertisement for a free puppy. I did a bit or research on puppy giveaways --and sure enough, her suspicions appeared to be well founded. I came across a piece written by James Fallows for the Atlantic magazine. He discussed a strange email he'd received; someone inquired about advertising with The Atlantic, saying that they wanted to give away purebred puppies --for free.  Though he suspected a scam, he couldn't see the angle; imagine his surprise to find out that not only was he correct in thinking that this puppy giveaway was a scam but that it's actually a well known scam that's been popping up in print and online ads for years.

Purebred puppies cost between hundreds and thousands of dollars each depending on the breeder offering the puppies, the breed of the puppy and whether the puppy is male or female.  While this may immediately make an add offering a free puppy with a documented purebred lineage seem too good to be true for some, some breeders do occasionally reduce the prices on puppies or even give them away in certain situations if the puppies are unlikely to sell.  Giving them away is rare, but it does happen occasionally.  When someone decides to check things out and responds to one of the ads, however, that's when the scam kicks in.

When the poster of the ad responds to interested individuals, he usually explains that he doesn't live locally or that he is abroad in a country such as the UK, Nigeria or Cameroon.  A popular reason that is given for being abroad is that the poster is doing missionary work, though other reasoning may be given as well.  The respondent is asked to cover the cost of vaccinations and shipping the animal back to the US, a cost that usually ends up being around $200 to $300.  This usually doesn't seem like an unreasonable request, since the cost isn't nearly as much as what would be required to buy a purebred puppy and the vaccinations would be required to get the animal through customs.

Once the money has been paid, of course, no puppy ever arrives; there was never a puppy to start with, since the scammer was just trying to tug on a few heart-strings --and take advantage of the emotions anyone wanting a  furry little companion would naturally have.  Any pictures that accompany the ad are typically taken from classified ads posted on pet finder websites or sites put up by legitimate breeders; there are a lot of pictures of puppies that are intended to help the owners find new homes for the dogs, so scammers have a lot of options available.

One major giveaway in these scams is the way that the scammers say that you'll receive your puppy.  In most cases they say that the puppy will be delivered to you within a few days of receiving its vaccination, but that just proves that the ad is a scam; while animals can be shipped overseas, they must be placed in quarantine for several days before they are approved by customs and you are required to pick them up from the airline that shipped them in person with a photo ID.

If you're in the market for a puppy, try to deal with local breeders who allow you to pick the puppy you want and give you a look at the living conditions of the dogs so you can make sure that it's not a puppy mill.  If you do respond to a print or online ad, ask for new photos of the dog with a note in the picture that includes your name to prove that it's legitimate.  And if having a purebred dog isn't important to you, take the time to visit your local shelter before you start answering ads since you can typically get dogs there that need a loving home for free or for a minimal adoption fee.

Information is empowering ---and it is often your best defense against fraud. Familiarize yourself with a few of the latest scam techniques and you'll be less likely to fall victim to fraud


No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL:

Leave a comment

A memoir exposing the steep price consumers pay when facing mortgage servicing errors, inaccurate credit reporting, illegal debt collection practices, identity theft and weak consumer protection laws. THE BOOK » DENISE'S STORY »