How Pet Scams Lure You In and Leave You Broke
The cutest new redhead just moved to my neighborhood. She’s only a few months old, maybe nine whole pounds, brown-eyed and full of wiggles. Her name, fittingly, is Annie.
Annie is a golden doodle puppy that belongs to our neighbors Doug and Sunnie. It is no exaggeration to say Annie has already had a positive effect on my health. How’s that if I don’t even own this dog, you ask? Well, Annie lives a few houses (and big yards) down the way, so naturally I need to walk by often to ensure I’ll get to see her once a day. My heart is thanking me, and my pedometer is singing my praises.
The thought that perhaps I could abscond with Annie and run off into the sunshine also (shamefully) crossed my mind. But then I think of Doug and Sunnie. The nicest neighbors. The active HOA members who keep our community pond clean and accessible for all. I can’t steal Annie and break their hearts.
Puppies, or pets in general, steal our hearts. Unfortunately, scammers are cashing in on our puppy love. In the past two years in Montana, 13 people reported being a victim of a puppy scam to our Scam
Tracker. Those victims lost nearly $6,000 they thought was being spent on a beloved family pet. Victims hail from all around the state and have lost money on many different breeds.
One Phillips County woman, Brandy, shared her story of being swindled by Kim’s Yorkie Home.
“I contacted the sellers to purchase a Yorkie puppy. The seller asked several questions and provided several emails. We ‘bought’ one of the puppies, so we thought were getting her shipped through the air. The sellers insisted we pay through family and friends. They emailed us that there was a problem with shipping, and the puppy needed a special crate. We needed to send more funds to obtain a crate for the puppy to ship. We sent the funds, and they stated the puppy was at an airport waiting because it had no pet insurance. We did not send anymore funds, but contacted authorities because we knew it was a scam.”
The BBB gives the sham business an F rating and warns consumers that no such company exists at the location listed on Kim’s Yorkie Home website. Despite the rating, Kim’s Yorkie Home continues to operate
a convincing website with adorable – stolen – puppy photos. There are even social media buttons at the bottom of the webpage (they don’t lead anywhere, I tried clicking and searching for Kim’s Yorkie Home on Facebook and Instagram) to add a layer of authenticity to the con. I reached out via the “Contact Us”
tab on the website to see if I could stop by their Virginia location and meet a puppy I hope to bring home one day. Unsurprisingly, I never heard back from the scammers behind the Yorkie yarn.
As for Brandy, she’s out $1,700. Living in a remote Montana town with a population of 69, Brandy knows how hard it is to find products and services locally, so she shops online. Pets, however, should never be purchased sight unseen.
Here are a few more tips for ensuring you find Fido and not a fraudster.
- Do an internet search of the picture of the pet you are considering. If the same
picture appears on multiple websites, you are likely dealing with a fraud. You
also can search for text from ads or testimonials to see if the seller copied
it from another site.
- Never pay a stranger with a money
order or through Western Union or Moneygram.
- Always use a credit card in case you
need to dispute the charges.
- Research prices for the breed you are
interested in adopting. If someone is advertising a purebred dog for free or at
a deeply discounted price, you could be dealing with a fraudulent offer.
- The Humane Society of the United
States refers consumers to local shelters. They also have tips for finding a reputable breeder.
- Learn about fraud in your area at BBB