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How to spot a scam


Pawprint puppy scam warning



1.  If buying puppies or kittens on the internet, please be aware that your identity may be stolen. Scammers soon have all your personal details. They can scam someone else, and open accounts in your name. Feel free to make a few mistakes when giving them your personal information. You can correct it later once you are sure it's not a scam. NEVER send copies of your ID over the internet. You do NOT need to give your ID number in order to buy a dog.

2.  If a breeder has puppies or kittens, do a video call. Nursing mothers must not be disturbed, but if the puppies are 5 weeks or more, they should be active.  Get the breeder to point out the liveliest, healthiest one. See if the parents are in good condition. Be pleasant, but be persistent that you see the puppies and parents before you pay! The breeders on this website (petsplace.co.za) are NOT scams. They are screened by me. This is what you can expect from an honest breeder:


You order a puppy. The breeder tells you that transport is extra. The breeder makes all the arrangements for transport. The cost of transport and a crate is included in the amount you have to pay. You pay a deposit to secure a puppy. The balance is to be paid before the puppy leaves the breeder. Inoculations and microchip (if any) are included in the price. It can take weeks to register a puppy, so the breeder may post the certificate to you along with a vet's card to show what vaccinations the pup had, or if they get it in time, they may send it in the same crate as the pup. If you want a copy of the parents' registration certificates before you pay, the breeder can email it to you. You do not have to talk to transport companies. The breeder makes all arrangements. You already paid for transport.

That's a summary of what you can expect from the breeders on this site.

But if you intend to visit other websites, you may come across pet scams, so the first precaution you can take is to write down or bookmark the websites you are visiting, and the date. Tomorrow you will have forgotten where you saw the ad. If you were adopting a human baby, you would make sure you knew the name of the Adoption Agency in case it's a shady fly-by-night. So just in case the breeder loses her cell, or emigrates, make 100% sure of what websites you visit so you have a back-up.

What you can expect from a scam website:

You fill up a contact form and someone will contact you by email. You may have to wait till the next day to be contacted. You don't know where the email came from if you visited several sites. So ask what website the person is from. (Check your browsing history to see whether you visited it!) The name & cell number on the email won't be the same as on the website. They will say it's an agent or employee of their "business."

Here are some clues to look for if you think it might be a scam.

Too many breeds to be true

They have lots of breeds available, but they couldn't all have had puppies same day.


Contact details

The "Contact" page may give you a red flag if you find only a form to fill up, and you cannot speak to the breeder. Always deal with the breeder direct - not an agent who is claiming to procure a puppy from a secret location, like Fairyland.

Type the cell number in Google. No cell? Very suspicious! It's nearly always a scam if there is no cell. It's best to talk to the seller before sending them all your personal details in a form.

If there is no email on the website, or email  is not clickable - that is a red flag. You are being forced to use the contact form.


com or coza?

A .co.za website is more likely to be South African than a .com.  Scammers often say, "We are in South Africa," when they are lying.


Who is the breeder? What is the breeder's name?

The breeder is the person who owns the dog or cat who had the babies. If you can't contact the breeder direct, something is wrong. Good breeders only sell to approved homes and they wouldn't give a litter to a business to sell. They want to know where their puppies are going. You need to know the full name.  Good breeders give support to their customers for the rest of the dog's life. You need to be able to contact them for advice over any health issues in years to come.

If it's a scam, the person you are dealing with is probably not a breeder, but is pretending to be an agent Let's call her a suspect. Scammers often use women's names as women are believed to be more trustworthy than men. So we'll say, "she." Here are some things to find out:

What is the suspect's address?

Before you can ask where the suspect is, she has already found out where YOU are if you filled up a form. She then invents an adddress in a town far away from you in case you come to her house and see that she has no dogs. Scammers can easily copy a name and address from the internet. Ask if a friend can drop by. Of course, if you have already paid, they won't stop you travelling to this false address.


What does the suspect sound like?

Don't do business by forms, emails, and text only. But most of the engagements should be in writing so you have a record of what was agreed eg price & cost of transport. Be suspicious if the suspect is always out and you have to speak to someone else. Folk can change their name but not their voice. Is the suspect English, Afrikaans, Nigerian, or other? Is she a man? A video call will tell.


What does the suspect look like?

You can chat face to face by video in real time.  Ask to see the puppies' parents. If the pups are ready to go, the suspect must show you the puppies.


Fake Photos

Those photos of sweet puppies melt your heart! But they may be PhotoShopped. Or they may have got them from a breeder by pretending to want to buy a puppy. Do get a new photo with today's date on it for your baby's photo album. You'll be surprised how quickly puppies grow! Even one day makes a difference.

Have a face-to-face video call with the suspect to see your puppy's siblings and parents. It's the new nomal to video call instead of travelling to see puppies. If they DO show you the litter, then it's probably not a scam at all! It's delightful to see a whole litter at play. Pick the most active one - you can't tell by a photo. Only a video call can tell. Please note - the video is only effective if the puppies are ready to go - the same puppies as in the photos you were shown on the website. It's no good watching a video of newborns - one can't tell what they will be like when they are grown.


Lies about a vet

If you think it's a scam and they say the puppy has been innoculated, you can ask to see the vet's certificate - both sides - so you can see the name and address of the vet, and date of innoculations.  The scammer may mention an airport vet. Vets don't have a practice at an airport. If the certificate looks false, you could phone the vet.


The sick puppy scam

Scammers may say the puppy is ill and they have no money for the vet. Don't fall for it! The breeder must pay the vet and only sell healthy puppies. They are playing on your emotions.


Border fees scam

Sometimes the puppy is free, or cheap, and you just have to pay for transport. The seller says he has had to go to another country on business and had to take the puppy with him as it's too young to leave. Lies! The transport costs start rising!

Scammers may claim the puppy is detained at the border. They need clearance money. Ignore it.


Lies about registration

Ask if the puppy is registered. If she says, "Yes," ask WITH WHO is it registered? If it's registered with ABYZ, look up those initials. What do they stand for?  If you think it's a scam, insist on seeing the parents' registration certificates.  If she brushes aside your request, it is most certainly a scam. Give her one day to send you copies. The breeder's name should be on the mother's certificate.

If they say the puppy is NOT registered, then you shouldn't have to pay thousands of Rands for it. There is no proof that the dog is pure-bred.


Fake testimonials & references

Scamsters can  pretend to be a satisfied customer. They can get photos off another website.


Fraudulent bank accounts

Scammers use stolen bank cards, stolen cell phones, stolen ID books, and false names.  They change their name frequently. Google their bank a/c to see if it appears in other ads. When adding a beneficiary on internet banking, check the name of the account holder against the account number. If it's not in the scammer's name she may say that the a/c is in her partner or accountant's name. Take note of this red flag! Be suspicious if the a/c is in someone else's name. It may be a fraud a/c.  If you decide to pay, take note of the time and date of payment so the bank can trace it fast.


COVID-19 scams

Scammers play on people's fears and ignorance by the mention of the virus. If they say you must pay for a Covid compliance permit, or a Covid crate, there is no such thing.  Dogs do not transmit or suffer from Corona Virus.


Making payment

When the suspect sees that you are suspicious, she may protest that they are a honest, upstanding, "God-fearing" family. They may send a copy of their ID without your asking for it, which is a scammers' ploy to fool you. The ID is stolen. It's usually a woman's ID (of course).  Now there is no doubt that it's a scam. Genuine breeders know that one NEVER sends an ID over the internet. Quickly stop any payment you made to give yourself time to think. Do NOT select "Immediate Payment." Try to make your payment future-dated to give yourself time to cancel it. If possible, transfer the money from a bank that is different from the suspect's as this can take a few days. If the scammer starts arguing saying you MUST pay at once, they have shown themselves to be scammers. Genuine breeders do not resort to bullying. Block their calls!

If you've already paid, the scammer may play for time to make sure the money is in his account, and that he can withdraw it and money-launder it. He doesn't want you going to the police just yet so he will tell you there is a problem with transport, or something. If he changes the delivery date, STOP PAYMENT and see what happens. Speed is essential to stop payment. You must act fast!


Fake Transport Companies

Scammers invent names of pet transport companies and may ask you to pay the transport company direct. The "Transport Company" might be the scammer herself using a different name.

She may ask you for another large sum for an air-conditioned, electronic, covid-compliant crate, more vaccine, a Covid Legal Control Permit, or something, which she says she will refund after delivery. Hmmm.... Really?  There is no such requirement. They just want your bank details.


If you send your banking details, don't send your PIN too! they will empty your account. NEVER send copies of your ID and driving licence over the internet. They will use it to open accounts in your name.

When you realise you've been scammed, you feel stupid. But you're not stupid. You are a normal, trusting, animal-lover. You fear the police will be too busy to be interested, but they will take a statement at the police station. It's fraud. It's organised crime. Get a case number. Every little bit of info you can give the police will help them build up a case. The criminal  may get caught for another offence. It will help other people to avoid scams if you talk about your experience and share it widely on social media.


Where to report a dog or cat scam

Reliable breeders

Scam websites