Excitement turned to despair when a Cape Cod woman realized she was the victim of a puppy scam.
The little dog she bought never showed up and the website she purchased it from disappeared.
Truro residents Barbara Wohlgemuth and Carrie Stapleton bought a dog bed, collar and toys in preparation for the new Maltese puppy they purchased from what they thought was an online breeder in June.
“He sent, you know, four or five pictures and a very short video of Cabo, and I fell in love,” Wohlgemuth said.
They paid $700 for the dog and another $150 to have it shipped from North Carolina. But before the dog arrived, the shipping company demanded another $900 be sent via a peer-to-peer mobile payment app for a new crate and insurance.
“They said, 'well, we can't send the dog unless you send us this money,' so that’s what we did,” Wohlgemuth said.
And it didn’t end there.
“Then they wrote and said, 'we had to give him shots, vaccinations, and plus we have to get a permit, get him into Massachusetts. And that's going to be $1,400 for him combined,'” Wohlgemuth recalled. “And that's when we said no. That's when we knew.”
Wohlgemuth and Stapleton lost more than $1,700 in the scam. Now, they have some advice for others looking for a pet online.
“Well, the one thing was, if the price it looks like it's too good to be true, it's too good to be true," Stapleton said. “We didn't find anything else online that was less than $1,000 for these puppies. So that was another red flag that we didn't realize at the time.”
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Paula Fleming with the Better Business Bureau says pet scams are common and she encourages people to do a lot of research before they send any money to someone they find online or on social media.
“Make sure that you check them out with AKC. Make sure that if you can get them on the phone and possibly get a video or do it via Zoom that you're checking out the litter and the puppy itself,” Fleming said.
“There are great opportunities to find yourself a pet, whether it be a dog or a cat. But doing your due diligence is extremely important,” she added.
If the seller will only provide photos, the Better Business Bureau recommends you conduct a reverse image search of the pet you are considering. If the same picture appears on multiple websites, it’s likely a fraud.
Check sites for spelling and grammatical errors. That’s an indication the website is fake.
And, consider reaching out to a local animal shelter.
“Sometimes it's worth paying more to have peace of mind that you're dealing with someone reputable and you get to meet the puppy and have your family meet the puppy or the cat or the dog that's older that you're trying to rescue,” Fleming said.
Wohlgemuth and Stapleton plan to look locally next.
“Yeah, we want to feel it, touch it, hold it, cuddle it, you know, we want the dog to be for real this time. It’s kind of sad," Stapleton said.
“No shipping!” Wohlgemuth added.
You also want to avoid wiring money or paying for your pet using a cash transfer app or gift card. These payment methods offer no way to get your money back if you are the victim of fraud.