GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — One scam that’s becoming more common won’t just break your wallet; it could also break your heart.

For many, there’s no better time than the holidays to welcome a tail-wagging, four-legged new member to the family. Scammers know that and are ready to take advantage of you.

“Of all the scams that we see for online purchases, puppy scams are among the most common,” Troy Baker of the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan said.

Puppy scams are nothing new. Scammers set up a website with photos of cute pups that only exist in the cloud. They’ll take your money for the dog, but somehow it seems you’re always one more payment from bringing it home.

“They are an emotional scam. Families get drawn into these adorable photos and think they’re going to be part of that family, and then the ask comes for more money and more money and more money, and these poor people get ripped off,” Baker said.

Despite groups like the BBB warning people about the scams, the problem continues to grow.

“In 2022, the average loss has increased. An average loss of $850 now, that’s up from previous years,” Baker said.

There are a number of red flags to watch for when it comes to online puppy scams. First is the price. Scammers often advertise dogs for much less than legitimate breeders and offer discounted or free shipping.

“So know what the costs should be for a puppy and realize if the price is significantly lower, that’s one of those deals that it’s too good to be true,” Baker said.

Another warning sign comes when you try to check out the dog and you get all kinds of excuses why you can’t.

“If you can’t see the dog in person, absolutely ask to do a live video. Do a Zoom. Do a Facetime — something live where you can see that person actually has the dog you’re looking for,” Baker said.

There are a few simple steps you can take to avoid being scammed. One is to visit your local shelter. They always have dogs and cats looking for a new home. If you decide to go with a specific breed, check out the American Kennel Club or BBB for reputable breeders.

When it comes to puppy scams, Baker said it’s often the heartbreak that hits people harder than the money they lost.

“Most of the people we talked to are more upset with not getting the dog, than the $1,500 they’re out,” Baker said. “So really protect yourself and your family and do your research before you get in deep.”