‘It was heartbreaking;’ Gilbert family warns of puppy scam

Watch out for scammers if you plan to buy a puppy this holiday season.
Watch out for scammers if you plan to buy a puppy this holiday season.(Arizona's Family)
Published: Dec. 15, 2022 at 9:15 AM MST
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GILBERT (3TV/CBS 5) Megan Scott was in search of a special dog that could be trained as a diabetic alert dog for her daughter, Lucy. She found a Labrador retriever puppy through a company on Facebook.

“Their pictures didn’t seem like they were stock photos,” the Gilbert mom told On Your Side. “They also say in one of their rules that we know there’s a lot of scammers out there so beware. We will take care of you.”

Scott was cautious, and didn’t make a decision immediately. There were family discussions and plenty of back and forth with the person selling the dog. The seller even asked several questions about their household to make sure the puppy would be a good fit in their family.

“We sent that money, and it was a couple days later on a Monday that they were transferring the dog, and they contacted me at work all of a sudden,” Scott recalled. The company transferring the dog needed money for an insurance policy. It was a small red flag, but not enough to deter her so she paid the small fee.

But then there was another demand. This time, the company transferring the puppy needed additional money for an air-conditioned crate. “I said, ‘I think this is a scam,’ and so I said, ‘No, we’re done,’” Scott said.

The Better Business Bureau estimates people will lose $2 million this year to similar puppy scams. “There are a lot of red flags that people can be aware of,” said the BBB’s Jasmine Hill. “One of them is sending money via Zelle or via Cash App.”

The American Kennel Club says it receives reports regularly about puppy scams, including many that spoof the AKC logo. Brandi Munden, the vice president of communications for AKC says this type of scam is more common during the holiday season. “The scammers are very cognizant of the fact that people are ready to spend their money. This is something they may have been planning all year long and they think they’re getting lucky,” she explained. “They think they’re getting a deal. They think, ‘hey, I’ll be able to fulfill this Christmas wish,’ and that’s exactly what [the scammers] play on.”

There are safe ways to find a reputable breeder online. “If there’s a particular breed you love and are looking for, the breeds, especially those that are recognized by the AKC - and we recognize 200, so there’s not too many that we don’t - they all have parent club websites,” Munden said. “And what’s on those websites is information not only about the breed and living with the breed, but also active breeders that are members of their club. It means they’re adhering to health testing. They’re paying attention to the form and function of the dog.”

Scott’s money is gone. The bank says it can’t replace the $1,800 because Zelle was used for the transactions, and it can’t be reversed. But it’s not just about the money. “It was heartbreaking, honestly because [my daughter] is 14 and we’re literally trying to do everything we can,” Scott said. “It’s the extra precaution of having one more thing in place to help keep her healthy.” Someday their family will get the dog they need, but this scam has been a setback they never saw coming.

For more on how to spot online puppy scams, tap/click here.