Puppy scams on the rise for the holidays


WISCONSIN (CBS 58) – Scammers use cute photos of pets and fake websites to take your money.

Last year, Kelly Lee lost her mother to COVID-19. She also suffers from anxiety about going outside, so the Pleasant Prairie resident figured a dog would help on both fronts. Lee opted for a Pomeranian, in part because “they’re brave and really fluffy.”

A search on the Internet brought her to a website. Lee says it sounded legitimate and that she knew about the crooks. “I thought with the photos, the video and all that this was a legitimate website, so I sent them the payment,” she said.

The sellers sent Lee a tracking number, but soon there was a problem with the shipping and Lee was asked to shell out more money. “It was for a health certificate. I thought that was not fair because we have already received an animal and it is usually with the vet certificate that they would send before it travels, ”said Lee.

According to Lisa Schiller of the Better Business Bureau, this is happening in Wisconsin and across the country.

“Online scams have become so common since COVID,” she said. Scam websites lure people in with cute animal photos and then hope that the anticipation of a new pet and emotional attachment to the new household member will keep your payments coming.

The BBB claims that 35% of online scams reported in 2020 are pet-related, and seven in 10 of those people have lost money.

“It’s so profitable for crooks, it’s so easy for crooks to build bogus websites that they keep doing it,” Schiller said.

Kelly Lee says the site that scammed her for $ 950 has been taken down, but there are plenty more in its place.

Here are some easy ways to spot a scam website:

  • They advertise prices for pets that are much cheaper than what licensed breeders charge. A price “too good to be true” is usually just that.
  • Right click on the animal images used on the website and do a reverse image search. If the same image is used on multiple sites, that’s a huge red flag. “Scammers steal legitimate photos from sellers,” Schiller said.
  • Perform a search on the seller’s email address and web address. Many areas are on watch lists like the BBB Scam Tracker.

While they might not have specific breeds, consider adopting a Wisconsin Humane Society pet.

If you decide to buy online, use PayPal or a credit card. Any seller who demands payment through money transfer apps like Cash App or Zelle could try to rip you off, these apps offer very little protection if the purchase goes wrong.

Kelly Lee learned the scam the hard way.

“I was heartbroken to get ripped off, because you know I really wanted this puppy,” she said. But she has a new friend to cheer her up. She bought little Coco Chanel from a pet store in Racine.

“When I cry or think about my mother, or get angry, she immediately comes up to me and licks my face,” she said.

Read the recent BBB report on online shopping scams here.