Tips for Consumers: The "Free Puppy Scam"

Tips for Consumers
The "Free Puppy Scam"

Consumers around the country - possibly including some from the Hagerstown area - might have lost money after responding to online or newspaper classified advertising offering a free puppy. The scammer-posing as a breeder-typically runs an ad saying that he is a missionary in Nigeria who is being relocated. As a result, he can't keep his AKC-registered puppy. He doesn't want money, he just wants to find a good home for the dog.
Consumers who respond (only by e-mail) get a lengthy story about him and his dog. It seems honest and sincere. But once they agree to take the dog, they discover that they are asked to send hundreds of dollars (by Western Union, of course) to pay for the transportation of the puppy to the U.S. In the course of the conversation they also are asked for donations to help the missionary work. We have reports that some victims end up sending more than $1,000 to claim their "free puppy."
Actually, of course, there never was a puppy. The whole story was just the latest overseas scam like "winning the lottery" or "We want to hire you to be our company agent."
But this fraud works because we are sympathetic to a poor puppy needing a home. The American Kennel Club (AKC) is also upset. "This is certainly not the only scam to be aware of, but it is a common one," says AKC spokesperson Lisa Peterson. "Because of the emotional investment, consumers are more vulnerable to being taken advantage of when it comes to a cute cuddly puppy than with any other purchase. A dog is a major investment - a living, breathing being who will rely on you for 10 years or more. Take time to educate yourself on the hallmarks of a legitimate and responsible breeder."
Before you are tricked into buying an AKC-registered puppy, here are some tips from the AKC and BBB:
Do your research. Check with the AKC (919-233-9767) and the BBB ( or 24 hours a day at 410-347-3992 to discover complaints about the breeder.
_ Request references and speak to other people who have purchased from this breeder-especially if he is in a distant location.
_ Beware of breeders overly concerned with getting paid. Legitimate breeders are more concerned about the future home of the dog than money.
_ Take your time. Beware of breeders who claim to have multiple breeds ready to ship immediately. And finally:
_ Report a scam. Report them to local authorities and the BBB. Our office serves Hagerstown and all of Greater Maryland.

To file a complaint visit: or write: BBB, 1414 Key Highway, #100, Baltimore MD 21230. Their office serves Baltimore and all of Greater Maryland.