We’re going to discuss several things you can do to avoid pet adoption scams, but many of these tips can be boiled down to one golden rule that, when followed, will immeasurably help the decision-making process: Be patient! We know it’s hard. Once you’ve got your mind set on adding a new furry friend to the house, it’s hard not to get inpatient, even to the point of being rash. Rather than click on and jump at the first online ad that shows the kind of puppy you’re looking for, it’s imperative that you do your due diligence in taking a hard look at who you’re contacting and whether or not they are, in fact, a reputable breeder or adoption center. There are a lot of slick schemes and convincing sounding explanations, but unless and until you can actually verify the legitimacy of the breeder or adoption center, don’t make any payments.

Recent News and Information about Pet Adoption Scams

Online pet adoption scams have been a problem for years and don’t seem like they’re going away anytime soon. A couple years ago, the Better Business Bureau issued a report that claimed online and international-based pet adoption scams are much more widespread than initially believed. The report that detailed some of the specific strategies and tactics used by scammers. Many of these operations are based out of Cameroon, but also hire workers in the U.S. to pick up wire payments. Many of these online scams will reel people in with the promise of “free” puppies available with a heart-wrenching story attached. Then, the scammer asks for a simple delivery fee or donation to help an adoption center that turns out not to exist.

Earlier this month, the Oregon branch of the FBI gave advice on its Tech Tuesday segment about how to build a digital defense against pet adoption scams in the midst of ongoing schemes to dupe people who are simply trying to find the perfect pet. Among the many tips they offer, the two that stuck out to us is to never pay with a wire transfer or gift card, and if you’re chatting with someone online, watch out for odd phrasing that may indicate the person is not an English-born speaker.

How to Report or Research the Latest Scams

Needless to say, pet adoption scammers are in a perpetual game of cat-and-mouse with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center and other online enforcement entities. Schemes have gotten more elaborate but also more refined. More than just tried-and-true methods for avoiding adoption scams, it doesn’t hurt to know what the latest tactics have been. In addition to general advice and resources, the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) provides an online space for people to report pet adoption scams that have happened to them. You can view a list of these scams to be on the lookout in general or to see if a questionable contact is deploying one of these scams.

How to Find a Reputable Breeder

Remember our golden rule for avoiding adoption scams? Check out the first tip that the American Kennel Club (AKC) gives for finding a responsible breeder: “Don’t be put off if a breeder isn’t immediately responsive. Hobby breeders often have full-time jobs and they don’t always have available puppies. Be selective. Find a responsible breeder who is knowledgeable and make sure you’re comfortable with them.”

Other notable tips include recognizing that it’s normal for reputable breeders to inquire about the nature of the pet care you can provide the dog or even sign a contract saying that is the dog is not properly cared for, it can be reclaimed by the breeder. Also, while it has no official regulatory authority, the AKC conducts thousands of inspections each year and keeps tabs on which breeders are following responsible practices. If you have questions about whether a specific breeder is in good standing, the American Kennel Club encourages you to contact them at 919-233-9767 or info@akc.org.

Armed with even basic knowledge of these online pet adoption scams, you can still find a great companion animal online while avoiding these scams. Dog breeding can be cyclical and seasonal, so even if you can’t find the perfect puppy this week, keep looking and you’re bound to find a great pet from a reputable source.