DIGITAL EXCLUSIVE: Online puppy scams nearly five-times as high during COVID-19

Digital Exclusives

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — It’s a trick as old as the internet itself. You see a picture of an adorable puppy online and you just want to make it yours. But when you try to buy it, the puppy never shows up, or worse, they just keep asking for more money.

“What we find is they advertise very adorable puppies for low cost, offer free shipping, then once you pay, they come up with a reason you have to pay more,” said Troy Baker, the Educational Foundation Director at the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan.

Beth Castro is a teacher from Rives Junction and this year she got scammed while trying to buy a puppy online.

“The first thing you feel is like you’ve been socked in the stomach,” Castro said. ““We were looking for a specific color and all that so we found the one that just captured our heart and we fell in love but the puppy was in the state of Texas. “

Castro did a lot of research and was even put through a screening process, which she found reassuring. 

“It looked like these people were trying to match the right puppy with the right family, which makes you think this is a great thing.”

She sent the website hundreds of dollars up front and was even given flight information to get the dog to Michigan. But when they asked for more money, Castro did more digging and realized that she got scammed.

Castro isn’t alone. The BBB is seeing five-times more online puppy scams this year than when they started tracking it in 2017 and they believe they know why.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rampage through our country and the rest of the world, more and more people are working from home, meaning they have more time for pets.

“With COVID and staying at home, you know have that ability to be home with a puppy so you’ve got some time that you didn’t normally have,” Baker said.

Baker said that this is a scam that tugs at the heart strings.

“You get people that are looking for a new member of the family in a lot of cases and they find these adorable photos and get hooked,” Baker said.

According to the B-B-B, the median loss reported to Scam Tracker in 2020 is $750.

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