(KERO) — Families hoping to bring home a pet this Christmas are ending up heartbroken and out thousands of dollars. How to spot these fake puppy sites as 23ABC counts down the 12 Scams of Christmas.
It’s so easy to become invested once you see a pet online and scammers will capitalize on your emotions, coming up with new reasons for you to send them money, until you realize it's a scam.
Lori Hayes saw a photo and felt an instant attachment
She found 10-week-old Barbie from a site called classic pug family.
"They wouldn’t take credit card, they would only take Zelle or gift cards so at this point, I’m desperate. I sent them the money. It was $650 for the dog and
$250 for shipping. I sent it through Zelle so they had $900," said Hayes.
Two days later she receives an urgent email saying they need an additional $680 because it’s summertime that the needed to ship the dog in an air-conditioned.
"I want this dog, so I Zelle them the money," said Hayes.
She gets the flight number then another urgent message stating there are customs fees for for the dog at JFK airport.
Lori called JFK Airport and a worker confirmed no fee like that existed.
The seller however wasn’t letting up.
"They said your dog is stuck in the pound, it’s not getting food, it’s not getting taken care of, the conditions are horrible at the airport and it’s your fault because you’re not paying this $1,500 fee that the airport had supposedly implemented in keeping the dog on top of the $1,700-1,800 I already paid them," said Hayes.
Lori didn’t send anymore money and the scammer stopped responding.
"I’m thinking I’m getting a pug, my hopes were so high that someone would knock on the door with a new puppy, and it was just a scam," said Hayes.
A scam that cost consumers an estimated $3 million last year.
Some tips to avoid getting scammed:
Angie Barnett with the Better Business Bureau said an easy way to vet these sites is to use the photos they post.
"Do a reverse image and Google and see how many other websites are using that particular photo," said Barnett.
And look at contact information including the business address.
This site used an address in Pasadena, Maryland. The same address is also linked to a website selling Boston terrier puppies.
A resident confirmed to the BBB they have nothing to do with either business.
And while Lori is out that money she’s moved on with some help from Luna.
"You know, my heart is full again, I have my dog but I really want to caution anyone, everyone, please please please do your homework," said Hayes.
Lori met Luna in-person so she knew she wasn’t getting scammed this time.
If you’re looking to add a pet, visit your local shelter.
And if you’re dead set on getting a purebred, look up breeders through the American Kennel Club.