How to Avoid the Pet Adoption Fee Scam

The Better Business Bureau serving the Canton and Greater West Virginia area offers tips and advice for consumers to avoid fraudulent practices.

During COVID-19, so many people adopted dogs that they emptied local shelters. If you’re looking to save a furry friend, watch out for scams. Puppy scams target people who want to adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue, pretending to be real animal shelters, or posing as individuals wishing to relocate an animal.


You are looking to adopt a dog, and you find an animal shelter or an individual online willing to relocate a puppy. You message them for more information and receive a compelling and heartbreaking backstory. In a recent BBB Scam Tracker report, a con artist claimed to have found a new home for her poodle after a car accident prevented her from looking after the dog. In other cases, crooks pose as real animal shelters.

In this latest version of the puppy scam, the scammer may not charge the dog. Instead, they ask for a refundable deposit to “hold” the puppy or ask for payment to ship the animal to your home. Most scammers ask you to pay through a digital wallet (Zelle has been mentioned in several reports) or to use a prepaid debit card or gift card. While this scam primarily involves dogs, it can also include cats and other pets.

After paying, the problems begin. One victim said she drove to the “shelter” to pick up her new dog, only to find that such an address did not exist. “I called and they texted me saying they were going downstairs with the puppy. I asked them where and no answer. Finally, after 10 calls, the phone was not accepting any calls! By that time it was quite clear that I was not going to get the puppy AND was losing $ 300. “

In other versions of the scam, the crooks offer to ship the dog. But first you have to pay for emergency vet visits, additional shipping costs, or even a COVID-19 test. The crooks ask for more money to fix the problem, often promising to pay it back after the animal is delivered. They can even claim that the animal will be euthanized if you don’t pay. Once they get your money, the crooks disappear. The dog never existed.


Never buy or adopt a pet without seeing it in person. This is the best way to make sure that you are not caught in a scam.

Search the Internet for the image of the animal. If you find a puppy online, upload the photo of the animal in a reverse image search. If you find more than one pet adoption site using the same image, it is probably a scam.

Use money transfer with friends. Protect yourself from scams by only using money transfer apps for their intended purpose: to send money to people you know personally.

FOR MORE INFORMATION – For more information, check out BBB’s full report on Puppy Scams at Find out how crooks masqueraded as a dog rescue in San Francisco. If you’ve spotted a scam (whether or not you’ve lost money), report it to Your report can help others avoid falling victim to scams. Find more information on scams and how to avoid them at

FOR BBB INFORMATION – Visit or call 330-454-9401 to find a business, file a complaint, write a customer review, read tips, find our events, follow us on social media and more!

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