(WATE) — Across the country, people buy puppies online daily, and scammers are capitalizing on the coronavirus pandemic.
Purebred puppies, especially rare ones, usually sell at premium prices. One couple believed they were getting a special breed at a great price, but it was too good to be true.
The couple received a video of a Siberian Samoyed, famous for its “smile” caused by the shape and position of its eyes and slight upturned curve of the mouth. They found the puppy on RoyalSamoyedPuppies.com, which the Better Business Bureau has placed an alert on.
Several different puppies are pictured, all around the same age and same low price for the breed: $650.
“It is a great-looking website. The only thing I saw wrong with this site is there is no address information on the site,” said Tony Binkley, BBB president of Greater East Tennessee.
A couple from Blount County, Tennessee told the BBB they fell in love with one of the puppies based on pictures sent to them. After messages were exchanged, they bought the dog.
“They made an agreement to buy the puppy for $800, which was $650 for the puppy, $120 for shipping and $30 for the paperwork,” said Binkley.
About a week later, they were sent video of their puppy in a crate and were told, “Hey, more money is needed.”
“They got a call from the shipping company. They say, ‘We have to have a special air-cooled crate for the puppy, and that’s $1,250,'” said Binkley. The money was sent by Moneygram.
“The worst part was the next day, the shipping company called back and said, ‘We have to have a larger crate. We need another $1,250. It was a five-pound puppy,'” said Binkley.
Apparently the larger crate was needed to protect the puppy from the coronavirus.
“That COVID-19 twist on this is special crating, special insurance now with COVID-19. They’re trying any way they can to get additional money,” said Binkley.
At that point, the couple decided they weren’t going to lose anymore money.
Warnings from the BBB & PetScams.com
- It’s likely the images were stolen from genuine breeder websites
- Legit breeders will not sell their puppies for rock bottom prices
- Written communication is filled with poor grammar
- There is no physical address for the website
- When the puppy is shipped, the cost will go even higher
The key is to shop local.
“There are a lot of shelters that have puppies, breeders locally. I would always recommend to just lay eyes on it yourself, or if you have a friend in the area to lay eyes on it for you,” said Binkley.
This is a common hoax with a common outcome — money spent, but no puppy. The scammer will usually correspond by email.
If they do actually speak, they’ll often have a foreign accent, according to Federal Trade Commission reports.
Many scammers will also provide an extensive list of testimonials on their websites. They are often glowing reports with no way to confirm their legitimacy.
If the puppy you’re looking for cannot be found locally, and if you see one online that you like, check with the BBB and ask about the site’s record.