How to Spot a Puppy Scammer

If you've been a member of DK for more than a minute, you know how serious we are about promoting responsible breeding.  We want to help you find a quality breeder and not settle for less than excellence.  We've written about it and podcasted about it.  But the pandemic has brought out a new kind of ugly: The Puppy Scammer.  These scammers are not good breeders, they aren't bad breeders, they are not breeders at all!

They are literally scammers that prey on inexperienced dog owners who are in a rush to buy a doodle puppy. They get you to send in a deposit and then vanish.  

Now, the easiest way to avoid scammers is to set your eyes on what a real responsible breeder is, then you won't even be tempted by a scammer because they will meet ZERO good breeder criteria. Read our article here on how to spot a responsible breeder: https://doodlekisses.com/notes/What_To_Look_for_In_a_Breeder

But for kicks, let's look at a few ways scammers work:

A) They have "fake" FB accounts. Their profile might show a puppy or a person with a puppy...or even look like a family. But there is little to nothing on their personal page that suggests a real person involved with dogs. If they do have dog posts they are very vague and have little interaction.  They are often not even based in the USA.  It's a brilliant plan really--much more effective than the past scams of "I have $1,000,000 in your name you just have to send me all your personal info so I can transfer you the money from Fake Princeypoo from (___insert faraway land___)."  

B) They have a "fake" FB breeder page:

  1. They post photos of puppies, BUT, there is little real interaction
  2. They often use the phrase "available for rehoming" using a term that FB allows for dog sales
  3. They give very little useful info and basically offer to PM anyone with any questions.
  4. Photos are ALL very "professional" and look like stock images, not a single real life photo or photos of a real person raising real puppies.
  5. If you look at the puppy photos you'll notice vastly different backgrounds as if the person has an entirely different design and flooring all over their home. One puppy will be on carpet, another will have a fancy photo set up, another will be on one kind of wood flooring, another will be on a different wood flooring, another will be on grass, another will be in a different professional photo shoot setup, another will be on tile. Backyards will look different from one photo to another. Realistically, if a breeder is doing a photo shoot, it's a ton of work to set up, and they will not be taking each puppy to some different environment to do it.  Here is an example of puppies in vastly different environments (these are all pulled and compiled from a stock photo site and instagram).  These are the vastly different backgrounds/flooring/etc you'll see for the puppies they have "available."  See how they all seem to be in different homes instead of with the same breeder?  Well, of course, since I collected these pictures from different places, they ARE from different places.  I've even seen puppies with name tags--breeders don't buy name tags for puppies they have "for sale."  They steal these photos from existing breeders/websites and possibly use free stock photos too.    
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C) There is RARELY a website where you can learn much about their pretend program. If there is one, their website will be equally vague, have odd grammer/descriptions of their dogs/puppies, and the same compilation of stock poodle-mix photos. Quite often the FB page "location" won't match the website location (if there is a website, often there is not) and the area code of the phone number will also not match.

D) They will try to do all the transaction via text message and a payment app and be "ready to sell" without asking you much about yourself. They won't Facetime/Zoom/Skype with you and photos they send will likely be more stock photos.

I would say these are the bare basics of spotting a puppy scammer. Be aware and aim for high standards so you don't have to be fooled by a scammer!

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  • I spend a good part of every day deleting these fake puppy salespeople's posts from the DRC Facebook groups and pages. If you scan through the responses to ANY post in ANY Facebook group where someone is asking where they can get a puppy, or even asking someone where she got her puppy, you will see responses from these scammers. Often they just say "PM me". Other times they say "I have x available", and usually there will be a link with a photo of an adorable puppy and something vague like "Goldendoodle Puppies For Sale."  
    One thing I do notice is that they often have odd names that look like abbreviations. When you look at their profile pages, there is NO information about them, including location. 

    And while we are on the topic, I see many people recommending Amish puppy mill broker sites when someone asks where they can get a doodle puppy. 
    Lancaster Puppies, Buckeye Puppies and Greenfield Puppies are examples of such sites. There are many others. Avoid them like the plague. I would hope that nobody here wants to reward animal cruelty, which is what you do when you buy from these sites. 

    • Yes, those darn Amish puppy mills.  UGH.  If there are dozens of breeds that a website sells it's basically an online pet store that can sell even more than a real life store can--and where do puppies in pet stores come from? ONLY puppy mills.  Can you imagine being a breeder, and caring about what you're breeding and striving for good homes and then selling them sight unseen to a stranger on the internet you have never talked to?  OMD--never!  These sites will often say their puppies come from "nice families in Ohio" and that this is just a way for them to better reach more people to sell their puppies--like they all work together for the goodness of dogs and people.  Yeah right!  They may or may not be families but they are certainly not responsible breeders who know a darn thing about dogs or the doodles they are breeding. It's merely a business.

    • There was an adorable red doodle puppy in the neighborhood a while back so I asked them where they got their pup... they said something about a Mennonite breeder and it automatically sent up red flags.  I sent an e-mail inquiry to the place and when I asked about health testing direclty they 100% dodged the question and basically said that the person who actually raises the puppies doesn't do e-mail.  I got a very "factory farm" type vibe from the reply to my e-mail and it was a giant "no" really quickly.

      • Our old border collie was from a mennonite farm.  I think in this case, they actually had working dogs they bred from, but this was Clark's pup, before my time ;-) 

        • Yeah this was seeming more like producing puppies raised in a barn for a profit.

          Lots of doodle breeders are in it for a profit but the good ones don't dodge questions.

          Luna was raised in a barn and turned out ok ;)  She was pretty afraid of house things for a while though (and some of them she never got over like the dreaded vacuum).  We saw a HUGE difference with Riley who was home-raised and didn't bat an eye at any house-related noises from day one.  Riley is generally just a more confident dog, could partly be a breed thing Bernese are supposed to "stand their ground".  Riley takes her house guarding duties VERY seriously. Even when it comes to the neighbors across the street who get into/out of their cars multiple times a day.... :p

          • Standard Poodles are pretty well known for house guarding, too. Also for "alert" barking.  ;)

            • Maybe that's why she's so adamant about it. :p  

              I tried to tell her she needs to teach her little brother to be less barky than her when he arrives, but not much chance of that he's more poodle than she is!

  • The best breeders in my experience want to know more about you than you could ever imagine. I never bought a puppy from someone who did not want to meet us personally even it meant them coming to our house.  Best breeders know a million things about breeding, socializing, training, feeding and will talk your ear off.  Be prepared to wait a year to get a doodle from a really good breeder.   Goldens, Cockers, Labs at one time were the dog to have.  Doodles are that dog now.  You are going to have and love that puppy a long time ( not long enough once you fall in love) do your homework.

      

  • I agree with everything you've said here, but I think there are also more nuances that are important. Obviously, you hope that a puppy exists if you put down a deposit. I've seen ads that are clearly... not from people who are living in this country. I don't mean a typo, but broken English and syntax that doesn't make sense. It should be a huge red flag. Phone numbers are so easy to spoof anymore that having the right area code is no guarantee that the person you're talking to is anywhere near you.

    It's more than that though, it's not just getting a puppy at all, it's getting the puppy that you think you're getting. Some of these large breeding operations have beautiful shiny websites. What I've learned (at least in the world of purebred dogs, maybe not as much in doodles) is that the best breeders often have really old, not updated, poorly designed websites if they have them at all. They don't need to. They have puppy buyers through word of mouth and reputation. (But I want to see the pretty pictures!) Some of the shiny websites advertise health testing that doesn't exist. They say health tested, but they don't offer test results. They don't even tell you what tests have been done. I speak from experience, I made that mistake. 

    My suggestion would be to try to get a breeder referral if you can. Kennel clubs often have a member in charge of breeder referrals. Again, maybe not as helpful in doodles, but we've all seen plenty of doodles around. Talk to people. And not just the people with tiny puppies, mostly they're all perfect. Talk to the people who have had their dogs for several years and see if they still have a relationship with their breeder. If the breeder stands behind their dogs and supports their puppy owners. In a perfect world I want my breeder to know where all their puppies are and to remember them and to have a relationship with the owners. I want them to care about the dogs they bring into the world. I have seen how some of them do this - and that is what I want. Someone who will be my mentor and not just take my money to the bank and wash their hands of me. 

    I think it's important when people are looking for a puppy to get out of that frantic "I want it, and I want it now" mindset. Take your time and find the right dog, not just the first dog you can find. This is going to be your companion for hopefully 15 years. It's a commitment, not a candy bar in the impulse purchase section at the check out counter. 

    • This is absolutely spot on. 
      I would also say, regarding health issues, "Talk to people. And not just the people with tiny puppies, mostly they're all perfect. Talk to the people who have had their dogs for several years" and see what kind of health or temperament issues they may be dealing with. It just kills me when I see people in the FB groups saying "I got my puppy from XYZ kennels and he's very healthy" and the puppy is 3 months old. 
      I imagine Jack was also "very healthy" at that age.  

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