One of the worst but most effective scams to thrive under pandemic conditions has been the puppy scam. It really kicked into gear during the many lockdowns because more people were home, but even with less restrictions, it's still going strong.

And people in and around the Rockford area who want to add a new dog to their family are still being taken in by puppy scams.

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Weimaraner puppy with blue eyes and red holiday tinsel
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Here's How Most Puppy Scams Work, And What You Can Do To Avoid One

For starters, take a look at some of the puppy photos I've added here. These photos are called "stock photos" because they come from a site that offers photos of all sorts of things. People use them to punctuate web posts...and to trick you, depending on their mission.

Puppy scammers post fake litters online or pretend to be someone they’re not (usually an existing breeder) to take advantage of puppy sales, and many will use stock photos or copied photos from someone's social media account. This means that if you aren’t careful, you could find the perfect puppy, send the "breeder" payment, and never receive a puppy or any follow-up communication in return.

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The Largest Group Of Victims Is The 25-44 Age Group, With An Average Loss Of $1,088

The best way to avoid a puppy scam is to simply not buy a pet online. There are lots of alternatives, starting with our wonderful local shelters. There are also legit breeders throughout the Northern Illinois area, and they'll welcome you to come and see the real dog you're looking to adopt, where the scam artists most certainly will not.

Cute little dog dressed up as reindeer kissing a little boy for Christmas
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Dog wearing reindeer antlers at Christmas
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Dennis Horton, director of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau (BBB), says that if you have your mind made up to make an online pet purchase, keep these tips in mind:

  • See the pet in person before paying any money. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, consider a video call with the seller so you can see the seller and the actual pet for sale. Since scammers are not likely to comply with the request, this may help avoid a scam.
  • Do a reverse image search of the photo of the pet and search for a distinctive phrase in the description.
  • Do research to get a sense of a fair price for the breed you are considering. Think twice if someone advertises a purebred dog for free or at a deeply discounted price because it could be a fraudulent offer.
  • Whenever possible see the pet in person.

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What the dog wants, the dog gets.

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Does your loyal pup's breed make the list? Read on to see if you'll be bragging to the neighbors about your dog's intellectual prowess the next time you take your fur baby out for a walk. Don't worry: Even if your dog's breed doesn't land on the list, that doesn't mean he's not a good boy--some traits simply can't be measured.