A Wolf in Pup’s Clothing


I had been searching for a Chow Chow puppy for months when I finally came across what seemed like the perfect opportunity on a popular online marketplace. A breeder needed to find homes for the last few pups from a recent litter. The post featured adorable photos of Chow Chow puppies. The price was surprisingly affordable, which should have been the first red flag.

I reached out to the seller via text message saying that I was interested in adopting one of the puppies. The seller, who went by the name ‘Amanda’ responded quickly. She claimed that there was only one pup left. Amanda shared information about its family tree and a recent vet visit. However, she never actually showed me any documentation of its pedigree and registration, which was another sign something was off. But, I ignored it. The little pups in the online photos were so stinking cute!

I think Amanda could tell I was emotionally invested so she wasted no time telling me she had a lot of people contacting her. When I told her I needed to think about it, she insisted that I send a 50% deposit via Zelle® to hold the puppy, claiming that another person was ready to buy the puppy with cash if I didn't act fast.

This sense of urgency and the insistence on using a digital payments platform like Zelle®, even though I hadn't met the puppy in person, should have added to the growing number of red flags. But, I was so focused on the prospect of welcoming a new furry friend into my life that I overlooked these warning signs.

Just as I was about to send the money for the deposit amount, something told me that I should do a little sleuthing before parting with my hard-earned cash. I decided to search online for reviews of the breeder. I couldn’t believe what I found. 

There were multiple reports of this being a widespread scam. The photos of the puppies were stolen from legitimate breeder websites. Crooks like ‘Amanda’ would take the deposit money and disappear, leaving the victims without a puppy and thousands of dollars poorer.

I felt a mix of anger and disappointment when I realized how close I had come to falling victim to this heartless scam.


Scammers use emotional manipulation to get people to act without thinking. By evoking strong emotions, like fear, scarcity, and excitement, potential victims are more likely to act on impulse. Crooks also use popular digital payment services like Zelle® to make their scam seem legitimate. Because Zelle® is associated with major banks, scammers try to exploit this trust people have in their financial institutions. 

However, it's important to note that Zelle® and other digital payment services are intended for transactions between people who know and trust each other. While each situation is different, these platforms may be unable to recover funds if a user falls victim to a scam.

Steer clear of pet scams by:

  • Avoiding anonymous listings in online marketplaces
  • Only sending money to someone you’ve met in person
  • Researching online sellers before completing a financial transaction
  • Remembering that below market prices should be approached with caution

Stay informed about the latest scams and fraud tactics by visiting FTC Scams. You can also explore ways to protect your accounts by visiting Logix Fraud and ID Theft Prevention.


Zelle® and the Zelle® related marks are wholly owned by Early Warning Services, LLC., and are used herein under license.

Meet the blogger

Tracy Scott

Tracy Scott

Tracy Scott is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance and higher education. She writes for a variety of financial institutions, universities, and lifestyle websites.