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Don’t fall for this puppy scam that will pull at your heartstrings this holiday season

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Posted at 9:48 AM, Dec 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-18 09:48:03-05

AKRON, Ohio — It’s an aspiring pet owner’s worst nightmare: you find an adorable puppy that sparks an instant connection, only to send money to the "seller," with your pet never being delivered. The Better Business Bureau of Akron sent out a warning about the latest holiday puppy scam that’s pulling at consumer's heartstrings, one cute puppy picture at a time.

How the scam works is a scammer will claim they are breeders, pet sellers or a distraught pet owner who must find a new home for their beloved dog. The prospective pet owner will inquire about the pet before the scammer requests a wire money transfer through Western Union or Moneygram to complete the purchase.

The seller promises the pet will be delivered right away. But, of course, there are unexpected problems and excuses, which include saying the airline requires a specific pet crate or the shipper requires costly pet insurance. In many cases, the pet it never delivered and neither is the refund.

Reports of the puppy scam have increased since BBB alerted customers about this scam in 2017. Over the last three years, consumers filed 16,000 complaints.

The BBB suggests following these tips to protect yourself:

● If possible, inspect the pet yourself by arranging to meet with the prospective seller in person. Most legitimate breeders will welcome the visit.

● Never send money via Western Union and Moneygram to people or companies you don't know and trust. Once the money is wired, it is gone for good. The same goes for prepaid debit cards or gift cards. Always use a credit card in case you need to dispute the charges. If anyone asks you to pay for anything with a gift card, you may be dealing with fraud. Petscams.com has also warned people about paying with Zelle, a digital payment system.

● Do an internet search for the picture of the pet you are considering. If the same picture appears on multiple websites, you may be dealing with a fraud. You also can search for text from ads or testimonials to see if the seller copied it from another site.

● Research prices for the breed you are interested in adopting or purchasing. If someone advertises a purebred dog for free or at a deeply discounted price, you could be dealing with a fraudulent offer. If they state that they register their dogs with a specific organization or registry, confirm by contacting the registry or organization directly.

● Check out the website. Go to petscams.com [petscams.com] to see if a site selling pets is bogus.

● Find out what other consumers are saying. Check BBB Scam Tracker and do an internet search on the breeder’s or organization's name.

● If you have been a victim or see a puppy scam, report it to BBB Scam Tracker [bbb.org].