For a long time, I wanted an English Bulldog. They are cute, wrinkly, and have such fun personalities! However, they are very expensive and not very easy to find. I checked multiple websites and many classified ads. I finally found an owner selling his bulldog for only $300 (red flag #1). This was an amazing price because most breeders sell their bulldogs for at least $1200. The owner told me that he had to move (red flag #2) so he couldn’t keep the dog. He informed me that there was a flight leaving that night, and that he could get the dog on a plane so I would have him the next morning. All I had left to do was pay him. The owner refused to take any videos of the dog or additional pictures because he was too “busy” with work (red flag #3). He also wouldn’t talk with me over the phone, all our conversations were over text (red flag #4). He asked me to go to the store to purchase a uShip® giftcard. Once I had purchased the giftcard, I got a convincing email that looked to be from uShip®, asking me to verify the information on the giftcard to finalize my purchase of a one way ticket for the dog to my house (red flag #5). It provided all of the accommodations he would receive in fine print. Once I verified the giftcard payment, I received an email that my payment had gone through. I wasn’t aware that the email address didn’t match the authentic uShip® email address. I was overjoyed and went to bed dreaming of my puppy that would arrive at 10 a.m. approximately the next morning. When I woke up, I waited anxiously. I waited, and waited, and waited some more. No dog. The “owner” sent me a cruel message telling me to “send pictures of our happy family together”. He knew that no dog would ever arrive on my doorstep and he knew the disappointment he was bringing me all for a few hundred dollars. I called the police, but there was nothing I could do at that point because the money from the giftcard had already been transferred into the criminal’s account. Through this depressing situation, I learned a few valuable lessons about buying animals online.
1. Avoid buying from a breeder or owner you haven’t met in person
The easiest way to avoid being scammed is to buy from an owner or breeder in your area. It is perfectly understandable to want to browse the computer instead of a newspaper for dog ads, but try, if possible, to arrange a time to meet the owner in person. You can even request to meet them in a public place if you feel uncomfortable going to their home.
2. If it sounds too good to be true…it is
Don’t try to purchase the cheapest pup available. If a breed is generally more expensive, it should be a red flag if you find it online for an extremely low price. If the owner of the puppy is conveniently moving and needs to get rid of the dog quickly (this is a commonly used scam tactic), then make sure you understand the entire situation. Spend as much time communicating with the owners as possible through phone calls, Skype, and text.
3. Don’t allow the owner to rush your purchase
In my situation, the scammer tried to rush the money transaction because he didn’t want me to have any time to think. If I would have thought about his sketchy instructions, I would have realized that there were a lot of steps that didn’t make logical sense. Scammers often will try to rush payment so that you won’t have time to second guess your decisions. Don’t let them pressure you into a large purchase. Make the payment when you feel comfortable!
4. Ensure the pictures are original
As technology increases, scammers and criminals adapt and grow smarter. When you come across a picture of a really cute puppy, ask for additional pictures. If the owner isn’t able to take pictures that are very clear, or the posted picture seems too “perfect”, search the dog breed on Google images. Sometimes, scammers steal pictures from the Internet and claim it is a picture of the dog they are selling. Always be sure that none of the Google images match the puppy that you are looking to buy. Also, if the owner refuses to take any additional pictures or videos of the puppy, it is a red flag
5. Check the phone number
Although there are individuals who move to a new state and choose not to change their phone number, be cautious if the dog owner has an area code that differs from the state they claim to live in. There may be a completely harmless reason why the area code and residing state don’t match, but keep a look out for other warning signs. You may not have the luxury of communicating with the owner over the phone, but if you do have their phone number, request to talk to them instead of texting them. If they continue to have poor excuses as to why they can’t talk, this may be a red flag.
When a person violates you personally by stealing from you, it effects you greatly. It hurts your confidence in people and your sense of safety. It is easy to believe that you will always be able to recognize scammers or that you are immune to this type of crime. However, scammers are all over the Internet. It is unfortunate that not everyone can earn money through hard work and treat others with respect and kindness, but not every person has those values. I don’t want to discourage you from purchasing a puppy, but these tips are designed to keep you and your money protected. If you find a dog that will work well for you and your family, I promise it will be the biggest blessing!
The day after I was scammed, I was honestly a little depressed. I pictured myself holding my own puppy, but instead I was a couple hundred dollars in debt to my parents. Seeing that I was so upset about the situation, my boyfriend wanted to fix it (as usual). He drove to a breeder he found online and spent all of his graduation money on buying me a puppy. I was unaware of his intentions, but when there was a knock at my door, I was shocked. He was swaddling a baby English Bulldog. Words could not describe how special this moment and his gift was to me. Ever since then, Walter is my best little furry friend. I can’t imagine my family without him!