Because puppies are a popular holiday gift, it’s important to know the warning signs of Puppy Scams. I’m sure you’ve seen Ads on the internet displaying photos of adorable puppies who “need good loving homes”. Many times there’s a sad sob heart-wrenching story that goes along with the Ad. These Ads are specifically designed to pull at your heartstrings and entice animal lovers everywhere to want to adopt them.

Warning Signs of Puppy Scams

Typical Warning Signs of Puppy Scams

This scam usually involves a fake website that purports to be the website of a breeder of purebred kennel club registered dogs. Keep in mind that anyone can create a website that appears to be legitimate and anyone can steal the name and logo of a legitimate breeder.

The fake website or fake Ad will display photos of puppies that they don’t own and puppies that are really not for sale at all. The photos are copies taken from the websites and Ads of legitimate sellers or animal rescue organizations. The Ads talk about the dog’s personality and background. They offer the pet for sale at a low price or may even offer the puppy “free to a good home”.

Once a victim is hooked, the victim is instructed to wire money and given instructions as to where they go to pick up their new puppy. The scammer oftentimes requires additional fees to be paid to cover shipping costs, veterinarian exams, required shots, crating fees and even Insurance.

Once your money is sent to the fraudster, the victim is given flight information to pick up their puppy. Convincingly, the notice to pick up the dog often comes via email instructions that appear to come from a legitimate Airline. The email is, of course, a forgery. Once the victim gets to the airport to pick up their new puppy, there is no puppy waiting for them.  There never was a puppy for sale in the first place! Keep in mind, this scam works for all types of pets, not just puppies.

Tips to avoid this happening to you:
  • If the price keeps increasing, because of additional fees, recognize this as a Red Flag.
  • Never buy a dog without seeing the dog and the facility that is selling the dog.
  • Get an independent Vet report on the puppy instead of the one provided by the seller.
  • Check out the seller with the American Kennel Club to confirm legitimacy.
  • Do a reverse image of the pet’s photo by right clicking on the photo and choose “Copy Image Location”. Then paste it onto Google and select the option to “search by image”. If the photo appears in other Ads, don’t engage with the seller. You can also do this on tineye.com to see if the photo appears on other websites. It’s a Red Flag if it does.
  • If you’re told that a courier company is being used to transport the dog, be sure to check out the courier company’s legitimacy and ask if they have an open order to ship your dog.
  • Be wary of anyone selling anything who requires you to send them money via a bank wire. This is the preferred way a fraudster likes to receive money. Once you wire money, you can never get that money refunded back to you.



A FREE iPHONE X? Remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it is…

Right now there are Scammers out there looking to take advantage of the new iPhone X release, by promoting fake free iPhone offers. The new iPhone X is the most expensive iPhone ever released by Apple and everyone wants to get their hands on one, but the price is pretty prohibitive. The price is $999, making it the most expensive iPhone Apple has ever made.

Free iPhone X

For those who are counting, there have been more than 532 fraudulent iPhone social accounts set up. The creators of these fake social accounts are looking to increase their follower accounts. They want to boost their number of followers by offering free iPhones in exchange for a ‘like’, ‘share’ or ‘follow’ on their Facebook page or YouTube channel.

People who are looking to score a free iPhone X, will be enticed enough to either ‘like’, ‘share’ or ‘follow’ these fraudsters, in exchange for a chance of winning.

So, what do these gullible followers have to lose? Let’s take a look.

Free iPhone X offers may instruct users to share personal information that may then be used to steal the victim’s identity. Those same victims may fall for additional phishing schemes, designed to steal their personal information. They may be prompted or enticed by these fraudsters to install unsafe apps. They may be tricked into clicking on links that contain Malware that infects their computer and takes control of their device.

If you’ve seen or have been a sucker for one of these fake offers, you should report the fake pages and websites to the appropriate companies. It’s effortless to do so, if we’re talking about Facebook pages or other social media accounts.

Falling for social media schemes that entice you to ‘like’, ‘share’ or ‘follow’, is usually someone trying to take advantage of you.  Chances are pretty high, that you won’t come away with a free iPhone X.


It’s important to take several steps to help keep your online data safe. During the holiday shopping season, shoppers are looking for the perfect gifts. At the same time, criminals are looking for sensitive data. This data includes passwords, credit or debit card numbers, financial accounts and especially Social Security numbers.

Online Data on Santa's List

Anyone with an online presence should do these few simple things to protect their identity and keep online data safe from predators and fraudsters.

  • Shop at familiar online retailers. Generally, sites with an “s” in “https” at the start of the URL, are secure. Users can also look for the “lock” icon in your browser’s URL bar. That said, some criminals may get a security certificate, so the “s” may not always mean a site is legitimate.
  • Avoid unprotected Wi-Fi. Users should never do online financial transactions when using unprotected public Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi is never private. Unprotected public Wi-Fi hotspots may allow thieves to view your transactions. Use a virtual private network to keep your data private.
  • Recognize and avoid phishing emails that pose as a trusted source. These emails can come from a source that looks like a legitimate bank or even the IRS. These emails almost always include a link that is tainted or takes the user to a fake website. From there, the thieves can steal usernames and passwords.
  • Keep a clean machine. This includes computers, phones and tablets. Users should install security software to protect against malware that may steal data or install Ransomware. This software also protects against viruses that may damage files. Be sure to always keep your software updated and set them to update automatically.
  • Use passwords that are strong, long and unique. Experts suggest a minimum of 10 characters. Use a combination of upper-case and lower-case letters plus some numbers and symbols mixed in. Use phrases or a sentence. It is most important that you ALWAYS use a different password for each of your important online accounts.
  • Use multi-factor authentication when available. Some financial institutions, email providers and social media sites allow users to set their accounts for multi-factor authentication. This means users may need a security code, usually sent as a text to their mobile phone, in addition to a username and password.
  • Sign up for account alerts. Some financial institutions will send email or text alerts to an account holder when there is a withdrawal or change to their accounts. Generally, people can check their account profile to see what added protections may be available.
  • Encrypt sensitive date and protect it with a password. People who keep financial records, tax returns or any personal information on their computer should protect this data. Users should also back up important data to an external source. When disposing of a computer, mobile phone or tablet, it is extremely important that people make sure they wipe the hard drive of all information, including their printer, before disposing or trashing.

For additional tips, read my previous article about how to Shop Safely on Cyber Monday