CYPRESS, Texas – Puppy scams are not new. Con artists play on your emotions with the promise of a sweet, new furry friend that, in the end, victims learn may not even exist. The KPRC 2 Investigates team has a new twist on the old puppy scam that uses real pictures and videos of puppies that are actually for sale.
A lot of legitimate dog breeders and sellers are using social media for their business. But one Cypress woman contacted us when she said she caught a scammer using her videos and pictures to get people to pay deposits for dogs she didn’t own.
Lindy Johnson breeds Australian Labradoodles and business is booming.
“They don’t shed. They’re easygoing. They’re perfect family dogs,” said Johnson. “Everybody wants a puppy. And everybody wants a puppy now.”
A few months ago, a customer recognized Lindy on someone else’s page.
“She saw that this scammer posing like a breeder was using my videos, my pictures,” she said.
The scam is pretty simple.
“They get the deposit and they disappear. So I’ve had two customers tell me that happened to them. So they take the deposit. That’s the goal,” Johnson said. “So they get enough $400 deposits, they’re doing pretty well.”
Johnson said she was shocked and angry when she saw this happening.
“Because I don’t want someone using my pictures, especially with my son,” said Johnson.
Johnson said it’s happening in this closed Facebook group “Labradoodle puppies for adoption.” Once someone is accepted into the group, they can post pictures and make comments.
Johnson and her friends reported it to Facebook but were told there’s not enough evidence for the social media site to do anything about it.
“There’s no way to shut this down. We’ve tried to shut it down,” Johnson said.
“They have learned how to hit your heartstrings,” said Dan Parsons with the Better Business Bureau.
Dan Parsons with the Better Business Bureau said pet scams in general are hard to track.
“We believe they’re overseas,” said Parsons. “We hear Asia, we hear your eastern Europe, we don’t really know. Nobody really knows.”
Warning signs you are dealing with a puppy scammer
This experience has taught Johnson the red flags that should alert you that something’s not right.
- The seller claims you can “get a puppy right now.”
For a lot of breeds, especially Australian Labradoodles, expect to wait.
“A six month to 12 months wait at all times. So that’s probably the norm with most breeders, actually,” said Johnson.
- The names and accounts are all different.
Check all of the breeder’s accounts, including their payment apps. Do they match and go back to the same person?
“Everything should be flowing together, the social media, the website, the location, all of that should be really obvious.”
- They only want to send messages.
Be leery if they only want to use Facebook Messenger. Ask for a cellphone number.
“You should be able to get a hold of somebody to talk to you if you want to,” said Johnson.
- The only option is to see pictures.
Don’t be afraid to ask for proof of a puppy.
“You should expect someone to be able to take real-time pictures real-time video real Facetime if you would like to,” Johnson explained.
Do your research on breeders before buying
There are safe ways to pick a breeder. You can check for registered breeders with these organizations:
We reached out to the administrators of the page where Johnson’s pictures and videos were posted. They told us they watch the page for potential scammers.
“I just want people to be aware of the possibility of being scammed and how easy it is,” said Johnson.
Johnson said even she might not talk to someone before making a deposit. So she can see how this can easily happen. And she’s going to start watermarking her photos.
Facebook says they work to stop fraud in groups
A Facebook rep looked into the group and told us there’s not much they can do and a lot of people in the group are legit. Here’s more from the statement Facebook sent us:
“Our Community Standards apply across Facebook, including in public and private groups. These standards include policies against Fraud and Deception and we remove content that engages in, promotes, encourages, or facilitates fake user reviews.”
The Facebook rep told us advances in technology and artificial intelligence work to detect fraud. When the algorithms flag content, a staff member makes the final decision whether to take down groups that violate our policies. These efforts include public and private groups.