My daughter who is now just a teenager overhead me saying to my better half the other day that I would be okay getting a dog again. Ugh…that one statement created a whirlwind of: look at this puppy I found, a good lesson on scams and frauds for my daughter, and a reminder to us as parents to not let our emotions get caught up in our child’s youthful excitement.
That statement that opened up the slightest chance of us again having a dog again, created a focus for my daughter to search for dogs available. We started the adventure by searching together and searching the reliable places you can get a dog such as our local SPCA website. What we found, which I think is pretty amazing, is that right now, during this COVID-19 pandemic, there are very few dogs looking for homes.
Once we had exhausted the available dogs as not a fit for our family for one reason or another, we as adults were okay with waiting. My daughter though had puppy fever and kept searching the internet. Of course, she was able to come across what seemed like an endless list of puppies available. Yes, cute, adorable puppies! What followed was, “hey Mom, look at this puppy.”
Mom, can you email about this one I found? That question mixed with the adorableness and cute eyes of my daughter is what roped me in. It was not the pictures of all the adorable puppies, although they are cute and melt my heart, it was the enormous soft spot in my heart for my daughter that got me to agree, okay kiddo, I will email this one, and then this one, and oh ya, just one more email to this one too…
My daughter’s bursting desire for a puppy and my love for her as a mom rendered my logic for searching for a puppy inactive. I allowed my common sense and logic to be thrown to the side and sent a number of email messages asking about the available puppies.
Here is what I did wrong:
- I sent the email messages to the person directly instead of through the available contact form on the advertisement.
- I sent the email message from my regular email account instead of an email account that is opened just for situations and contacts like this.
- I forgot to turn off my gorgeous email signature on my email account that has my full name, photo, and phone number in it.
At one point, I thought that I was corresponding with a breeder who was asking some questions about our situation to ensure that their puppies were going to good homes. It was at this point, that my common sense started to reappear. I did provide a response to this person, but it was generic, had no names, no specific details or anything of the sort. It was our story of the loss of our 3 elderly dogs, we have cats, kids, someone is usually always home, no we are not breeders and we do not intend to breed.
The person in this correspondence even provided about nine photos of the adorable puppies being held by an adult and a child.
The above is not the photo that I received, but if I did not put the photo credit on it, you might just be adoring a cute puppy be held by a person. The photo is meant to make the ad look real and personalize it. The photo is meant to bring this imaginary puppy to life because it is being held by a person. A photo…I can see it, so it must exist right?!
Sure, the above photo I can Google search by image but there are many ways to get an image or create one that will not turn a result in a Google image search. There are websites that provide images of AI people. If you do a Google search about AI-generated dog photos, you will find results showing photos of dogs that do not exist. The photo sent to you could even be a legitimate photo of a dog that maybe is real, but has been dead for years. A picture is not proof!
There was a pretty steady pattern in the email responses that I received from people and they are tell-tale signs that it is highly likely that you are dealing with a scammer…
- The person just moved so although the ad was in your area, they are now across the country.
- They are not looking to make money on the sale, just want the puppy to go to a good home.
- They can’t look after the puppy anymore because of something like: they got a new job and have no time, a wife is pregnant, someone is sick….you get the picture.
- They will fly the puppy to you for free, you just pay the adoption fees or the puppy is free, you just pay for the flight.
- The ad will be for your area, but the contact phone number in the ad is not local.
You might even get a picture of their sick child or a photo of a child’s grave and the person will swear on their child’s grave that they are not scamming you, something that I received in one of the email messages to me. Who would ever swear on their child’s grave you ask…well a fraudster will, especially because chances are there is no child and no grave to be sworn upon.
I am happy to say though, that my awareness for scams and frauds kicked in pretty quickly. I was only in a trance created from the love and excitement my daughter had for a puppy, for about half a day. So although I made some errors in our search for a new four-legged family member, I recovered my common sense. I did not provide any information to anyone and I did not give money to anyone.
If you do a quick search of puppy scams right now, you will find a number of articles outlining how these scammers work. Here is a great CTV News article of a woman that was scammed out of $950 and how it happened.
These scammers play on your emotions to rope you in. The scammers rely on the fact that emotions cloud judgment and allow people to fall for their scams.
My recommendation…don’t stop your search for that soon to be new four-legged family member, just use your common sense when looking.
Here are my tips…
- If you cannot see the dog in person do not even consider it.
- Purchase from a reputable rescue or breeder that you have done your research on. Remember, anyone can create a website so make sure it is a real one.
- Don’t give any personal or specific information out about yourself to strangers.
- Look to see if the phone number the person puts to be reached on has an area code that matches the area that they say they are from.
- Are they making stories up like the name on the “papers” has to be my mom’s name or my friend’s name?
- Ask why they are selling the puppy. If they have this wonderful story of bad luck or having to move, that is a red flag. Not that some people don’t really sell puppies because of this situation, but this is a common theme in scams.
- Have a separate email account that you use for sending email messages asking about the dogs and don’t have a signature block with any of your details on it.
- Do a Google search on the person’s name selling the dog. Can you find them on Facebook, Linkedin, and so on? What information can you find on them there and does it match what they have told you?
- Are they asking to be paid in bitcoin or gift cards? If so, don’t do it.
- Listen to your gut feeling. If it sounds too good to be true or something just doesn’t seem right, walk away.
- Slow down and try to keep those emotions for a cute cuddly family member out of the equation.
In the end, we are still searching for our furry family member and we look forward to finally finding them and having them a part of our family. We have certainly slowed the process down, and have again started to approach it with common sense back on our side.