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How to avoid being swindled when buying a puppy online

Snow dog
Posted at 11:37 AM, Dec 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-10 17:48:08-05

CLEVELAND — Many of you might want to buy a puppy and put it under the tree for the kids this holiday season. Some local people have lost hundreds of dollars trying to do just that, as puppy purchase problems that have lasted throughout the pandemic continue right on into the holiday season.

Miah Yerrick, 19, from North Canton, tried to get a dog through, which is a classifieds site that advertises a lot of pets for sale. The Better Business Bureau has a current alert on the site and gives it an F rating.

Yerrick was looking for a Dachshund for her parents. A woman supposedly from Ashtabula had an ad. “She was only asking $300 for them, which is fairly cheap,” said Yerrick.

Yerrick sent a $150 deposit through Cash App but then was ghosted. “I tried calling her again and…the number was out of service,” Yerrick said.

Added Yerrick, “It’s crazy how people can take people’s money and have no shame about it."

Meanwhile, Mark and Christine Sakian from Twinsburg tried to get a puppy in November through

“(Christine’s) dream has always been a Yorkie,” said Mark.

The supposed sellers wanted $700 for a Yorkie named Anne. They asked that the money be sent through the pay app Venmo.

“They wanted us to do it, to pay as if we were paying a friend rather than with the insurance because they said it would cost more and take 21 days,” said Christine.

They sent the money but then got an email. “That we needed to purchase a heated kennel for the dog and that it would be like $4,000,” described Christine.

The Sakians refused and were out $700 at the time.

“We are being inundated by reports from consumers telling us their sad tale,” said President & CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland Sue McConnell.

She told us online puppy buying problems are really bad right now. Ohio’s Attorney General agrees.

“Swindlers basically operate by abusing people’s trust and their good nature,” said Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.

Criminals will even create a backstory that hits the heart.

“Someone in the military who got deployed and couldn’t keep the dog or there’s been some tragedy,” said McConnell.

5 On Your Side Investigators looked up and, sure enough, we found the same dog named Anne that the Sakians wanted.

We emailed saying we’d like more information about the pups. We got a response right away that was the exact same email the Sakians received.

Anne, again, cost $700 total.

We emailed a couple more times asking for additional information on the company. The emailer claimed to be from Texas.

We asked for a telephone number so we could talk to a real person. We got no response on that request. So, we called a recently listed number for the site.

The number was out of service.

The BBB gave an F rating as other consumers have complained, too.

We asked the Sakians what they thought about that.

“That just breaks my heart because I’m not the only one that has gone through this,” said Christine.

We contacted the domain company NameSilo that registered the site. It thanked us for the heads-up and immediately took the site down.

So, this holiday season if you want a pup under the tree, the Sakians say you might just want to avoid online animal buying altogether.

“I would recommend going to a shelter,” said Christine. “I mean, there’s plenty there, and it’s a lot safer.”

Here are a few tips to avoid puppy buying issues.

Watch out for:

-Poor grammar and spelling mistakes in emails and texts
-Sellers insisting on payments through a wire transfer, money order, gift card, or an app
-Sellers avoiding your requests to see the dog in person

By the way, the Sakians told us that the bank eventually called their transaction fraudulent and gave the couple their money back. never returned our messages for comment.

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