If you go online to look for a puppy, beware of scams. Online puppy scams have cost people hundreds to thousands of dollars.
In a typical scam, a seller offers a puppy for sale online, asks for payment via wire transfer or money order, and collects payment, but never delivers the puppy. In many cases, after the consumer pays once, the seller demands even more money for a crate, shots, shipping, or other costs. In reality, the seller is a con artist and there is no puppy.

Signs of a potential puppy scam include:

1. The seller offers the puppy for sale online.

2. The seller requests payment via wire transfer or money order.

3. Communication occurs via email or text.

4. No in-person communication occurs.

5. The seller provides limited pictures of the puppy.

6. Pictures of the puppy appear on other websites (when the images are searched online).

7. The seller has a poor reputation or no reputation.

8. There’s a problem with the delivery of the puppy.

9. The seller says extra money is needed for shipping or veterinary costs.

10. The seller threatens to turn you in for animal neglect or abandonment if you don’t pay.

To avoid scams:

• Research breeders and sellers carefully. Check complaints filed with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau, and review feedback from other customers. Be skeptical if you find no information; some scam artists change names regularly to trick consumers. If possible, work with a local, reputable organization.

• Never purchase a pet sight-unseen over the internet, especially from an individual who requests an “adoption fee” or “shipping fee” via money order or wire transfer. To help detect a possible scam, conduct an online image search of the puppy’s photo to see where else the picture is posted on the internet. (Search “how to search by image” for help determining how to do this.) If the same picture shows up in multiple places, it could be part of a scam.

• Visit the animal in person. If you choose to purchase a puppy, visit the breeder in person. Ask many questions. Ensure the breeder has individual veterinary paperwork for the puppy on the letterhead of his or her veterinarian, and consider calling the veterinarian to verify the relationship. Obtain proof of purchase with the breeder’s full contact information on it.

• Consider adoption from a local animal shelter, where the entire family can meet and interact with an animal prior to adoption.

• Watch for red flags. Beware of offers that are too good to be true, sellers who require payment via wire transfer or money order, requests for extra costs for airline pet insurance or a temperature-controlled crate, unexpected delivery problems requiring additional payment, or threats that you’ll be turned in for animal abuse or neglect if you don’t pay.

• Report potential problems. If you suspect a scam, contact The Hubbard Township Police Dept 330-675-2730. If you suspect animal cruelty, contact the seller’s local animal control agency or the humane society. The Humane Society of the United States has a puppy mill tip line at 1-877-MILL-TIP (1-877-645-5847).