Are you a sucker for a cute puppy? If so, the Better Business Bureau has a consumer alert for you: Beware.
In recent weeks the BBB said nearly a dozen online puppy scams have come to their attention. The websites offer popular breeds for a fraction of the cost typically charged by legitimate breeders. The sites are short lived, generally disappearing within weeks of victimizing consumers.
Case in point
In January, an Ohio woman was searching for a Pomeranian puppy online. She found a seller who called herself "Elizabeth" and was advertising a purebred Teacup Pomeranian with registration papers, health certificates, veterinary records and free shipping from Baltimore — all for only $550.
According to the BBB, the customer offered to pick up the animal in Baltimore and got the address of an office building. When she pressed the seller for details, "all communications ceased." The consumer later purchased a fully AKC registered puppy from a local breeder for $1700.
Using an alias, a BBB employee recently contacted duluxsiberianpups.com and asked about the animals and the location. A representative of the business said it was located in Cleveland, but when the BBB tried to get an address and other details, the business stopped responding.
Puppy scam red flags:
- If payment must be made by wire transfer — Scammers love this form of payment since it is anonymous and cannot be refunded.
- If you cannot visit the pet or the breeder — Scammers use phony addresses and never give the option of picking the pet up in person.
- If the seller cannot provide any other pictures of the puppy other than the one you saw online. This is because the seller does not have the puppy. The picture was copied from another website.
- When you search the website address at whois.com, you find the site has just recently been created and was registered in another country.
- When you Google the email address, business name, phone number, etc., you find warnings posted by other consumers.
- When you right click on the picture of the puppy and search Google for the image, you see the same picture is being used at other sites.
- Never pay for any product or service with a wire transfer, prepaid debit cards, or gift cards. Paying with your credit card provides you some protection if there is a problem.
- Check with BBB.org before dealing with an unknown company or seller. You can get BBB’s grade rating for the business, read and submit customer reviews, and read complaints filed by other buyers.
- Report scams to BBB’s Scam Tracker site.