Listen people. Do not buy any pet from an online seller unless you really do your homework. Every day I check with the Better Business Bureau to see what scams are making the rounds and every day most of the scams involve people who were tricked when buying a pet online. These scammers are raking in big bucks and there seems to be no end to the flow of money coming in from naïve pet lovers.
In fact, the Better Business Bureau claims that “a shocking 80% of sponsored advertisements about pets may be fake.” That said, these sites are made to mimic legitimate sites. There are pictures of dogs with cute names, testimonials, and shipping information. To the uninformed buyer, they seem like honest sites that are concerned about the care of dogs. Almost every breed of dog a person may look for has fake sites featuring that breed of dog.
But it’s not only dogs. All sorts of pets have appeared on fake sites;
So if these sites are so good at looking legitimate, how is the average buyer supposed to tell the good from the bad? Here are a few of the easiest ways. First of all, some sites may still have http rather than https URLs. Avoid such sites if they ask for money. That said, recently, more scam sites with https URLs have been appearing. In other words, the old maxim of trusting https sites is down the drain. Another key indicator is the price. If it seems like the price for your breed is too good to be true, it probably is. In addition, if the site doesn’t accept credit cards, it may be best to make no payments on it. Often these fake sites want Western Union money transfers or will accept PayPal, but that’s about as far as it goes. Also, the photos of the dogs may look good, but, often, if you do a Google image search, you’ll find the exact same photo on other dog sale sites. Those are the basic fundamentals, but I’d like to look a little deeper into these scam sites because they really are fooling far too many people.
As of one day before writing this, there was a site called countrysidepaws.com. It was only up for one month but probably scammed people out of thousands of dollars. These sites almost always get hosted on free hosting sites. Countrysidepaws used such a site. This site, Homestead Websites, offers free hosting at the premium level for a month. In other words, the criminals behind the site probably never expected it to last more than that. They expected to scam people until they were discovered and then they would disappear to rebuild the site elsewhere. The site was uncovered by PetScams.com on April, 19th, exactly 19 days after the site was launched.
Bloomsburybostonterriers.com is still online. (Here’s another tip. Avoid any pet sites with long URL addresses.) It is an https site, so it may fool some people. It offers “Quality Puppies with Moderate Prices”, which could be an indication that something is up but, you have to know what a Boston terrier normally sells for to determine if the prices are moderate. Doing such a check finds that the normal price range is between $600 to $1200 with an $800 average. The prices on this site are $500, which makes it suspicious. Checking a photo from this site led me to the exact photo on a duplicate site under another name, adamsbostonterriers.com. Here are the logos for each site. See any similarities?
It appears that much of the information on these sites is cloned from a site called, Star Boston Terriers, but this, too, is a pet scam site, which means that fake sites are copying information from other fake sites. In fact, at least nine fake sites that I have found seem to be sharing similar information on Boston Terriers. There are numerous breeds of dogs and each has dozens of scam websites. In fact, I had difficulty finding a legitimate site.
How They Gain Your Confidence
Oddly, most people who get scammed are aware that fake pet sites exist. So how do they still get scammed? First of all, everyone wants a good deal. The prices given on fake sites are good, but not ridiculously good. They are within the realm of probability, and, after all, why not save an extra $50 or $100?
Then, there are those irresistible pictures of cute puppies with cute names. Who, for example, can resist Clair?
As the scammers write, “she will win your heart with her first puppy kiss.” And only $550!
The scammers want you to build an emotional bond with your future pet, and this is where it starts. If they get this, they can manipulate you. They learn if they were successful when you click the “Contact Us Now” button. This leads you to a contact form from which they will harvest your name, email address, and phone number. You will tell them that it is Clair you are interested in.
You will then get an elaborate letter. It is a template that is sent to all victims. It will plug in your selected pet’s name, tell you all of the additional benefits you will receive (vet records, registration data, etc.), and show concern about the puppy going to a good home. This they do by asking a number of personal questions. (“Do you have kids?”) They could care less what your answers are. You could tell them you plan to make slippers from puppy skins. No problem. They just want to give the victim the feeling that the seller is, indeed, legitimate. The letter is written to encourage you to purchase the puppy.
You may be told that shipping is free and that a shipping crate is included in the price. For whatever reason, the seller will not be able to meet with you in person, even if you try to arrange something (he moved, had an emergency in Cyprus, is in the hospital) and you will have to arrange shipping, but, since it is free, it shouldn’t worry you much.
If you check the shipping company named by the scammers, you’ll be sent to another fake site that may look legitimate. One such site, according to petscams.com, is airglobalonline.com. It shows that you can track your shipment, but the tracking field doesn’t allow you to enter your number. It says you can pay by credit card, but the form won’t allow you to enter anything because it is just made to look like a form. Some scam shipping sites run by pet scammers will allow you to track your pet, but the information goes directly to the scammers and they can tell you anything they want. The picture on their homepage is from a stock photo.
The logo is copied from a legitimate shipping site called, Parcel Force.
But, as you may suspect, nothing is really free, and that includes shipping. After you pay for your pet, the scammer will find ways to get more money from you. You will be told that the shipping company is demanding fees for any number of reasons. One common reason is that the airline, because of climate change, requires the purchase of an air conditioned crate, as shown in the actual scam note below.
In some cases, your pet is already near death and money must be paid at once to save it. If you begin to be suspicious and hold back in paying, the scammer will tell you that, as the legal owner, you could go to prison for cruelty to animals. Besides, you may begin to imagine poor little Clair at death’s dog door.
The extra costs will keep coming until the victim realizes they must be getting scammed. Victims are told their pet must get extra shots, air sickness medicine, special food, or even DNA tests. Once the victim begins to question these extra costs, the seller suddenly disappears.
These pet scams understandably make victims very angry. . “May God give these scammers an early, painful and slow death.” Some were buying pets for their children or to replace a pet that just died. Many vow to get revenge. Sadly, this is unlikely to happen. The most revenge you can get is reporting their site and having them rebuild it under a new name elsewhere, and this will cost them nothing but time. Researchers have found that most of these scams originate in Africa, especially, for some reason, Cameroon. Those governments probably couldn’t care less about puppy scams.
If you want to do more research on these scam websites, you can check them out at whois.com. Sometimes you might get lucky. I checked out the fake empirebulldogs.com and found it registered to Muta Princewith from Cameroon. This name was used to register a number of fake sites. You will get an address but I doubt if it is valid.
You may find a fake puppy site located near you. Some victims have attempted to surprise the scammer by driving many hours to show up at their listed address. Often, all they find is an empty lot or an office building. They may even confront an innocent person who knows nothing of the scam but has had their address used without them being aware of it.
It may seem like such trips are in vain, however, if you ever order a pet online, arrange to see it. Don’t accept photos or videos as evidence. All the scammers use them. If you suggest a meeting and the seller offers some excuse, find your pet elsewhere. When it comes to buying pets, seeing is believing.