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Pet scam victims duped into sending thousands of dollars and multiple payments

Anyone looking to buy a pet is a target this holiday season. Scammers reel in victims with cute photos then trick them into sending thousands of dollars.

“I’ve had a Chow Chow before, and I’ve been through a breeder before, and I’ve done it online before, so I didn’t think anything of it,” said Stacey Johnson.

Johnson found Chow Chow Glories through a google search. She read through their website, and they were quick to respond.

“And I said I could actually come and pick the dog up and he said you can but then he recommended, more so, that I would have the puppy delivered because with the puppy delivery there was going to be all these bells and whistles that would’ve came with the dog,” Johnson recalled.

The seller offered a health certificate and guarantee, registration papers, and dog training package with delivery. Johnson agreed and sent $624 via Zelle, but that didn’t cover it all.

“There was an insurance that I needed to pay to make sure and it was refundable,” Johnson said.

That “refundable insurance” cost her an additional $1,000.

“Next thing you know, I got another email requesting more money and then I was like okay, I’m done,” said Johnson.

Angie Barnett, president and CEO with the Better Business Bureau serving greater Maryland, said this is why puppy scams are so lucrative for fraudsters.

“This is one of a few scams that also is frequently a twofer, meaning I’ve now paid for a pet that will not be delivered but in addition, the scammer is going to reach out to me and say they’ve been caught up in shipping, they need a special certificate, but they will ask you to pay more money and frequently people do so,” Barnett said.

Like Johnson, many victims are thinking about the puppy over the costs.

“Isolation, people are looking for joy and happiness, companionship, so there’s an emotional connection to it,” Barnett added.

“I knew that that was the dog that I wanted. My daughter had just went away to college and that was a comfort for me, and then I had also told her about it and she was so excited that when she comes home this dog was going to be there and then I didn’t get it,” said Johnson.

Looking back, Johnson feels she acted too quickly and didn’t spend enough time researching the seller. Later, she discovered a similar website with the same photos.

You can easily check this by doing a reverse google image search. Or check the American Kennel Club for recommended breeders. The best way to avoid this scam is to visit your local animal shelter.

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