3OYS: Pet scam costs woman $3,000

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- A Valley woman hoping to bring a new puppy into the family thought she found the perfect dog on the internet. That dog was supposed to be free, but it turns out, that puppy came with a hefty price tag.

Lori Dignoti says she just wanted to do something special for her son. That something special, she thought, was bringing a puppy into the family.  "Just to see the excitement on our child's face when there's a dog that loves you," Dignoti told 3 On Your Side. "It doesn't care what mistakes you've made."

So, Dignoti got on the Internet and began searching for a dog. Before long, she came across a cute little Husky which melted her heart.  Dignoti says she emailed the seller, who said the puppy was free and still available.

The seller simply requested that Dignoti cover the $200 transportation cost for the animal. "$200 for a purebred Husky? I had no qualms over it." says Dignoti.

Dignoti did what she was told. She wired the seller $200 so the the puppy could be transported.  But a day after she did, she received an email from the transport company saying she also needed to insure the animal for liability reasons, and was instructed to wire $900. 

It was money she would supposedly get back once the dog reached her home safely. "I thought, okay, well, you need insurance on a car so I could understand why you would want insurance for your pet," she says.

Dignoti wired the $900.  However, the next day, another email came. This one said Dignoti needed to wire $1,000 for permits and other documentation fees needed to legally ship the dog. So, Dignoti wired $1,000.  But the next day, yet another email showed up.

This one indicated the dog needed a crate and immunization records.  The cost?  $800, that, of course, needed to be wired.

"So, we went ahead and pawned a bunch of stuff that we had around the house to try to get the money,"  she says.

At that point, Dignoti was into this dog for nearly $3,000, but most of it was supposed to be refundable she was told.  "We were like, 'Yeah, this is finally done.  We're going to going to get our money back when the dog comes so I'm not going to stress,'" Dignoti said.

But that cute little dog never arrived because the so-called shipper was demanding more money.  And if Dignoti did not wire it, the shipping company would see to it that she and her family were charged with Animal Cruelty and Pet Abandonment.  "I don't work and I have this money that I have to pay or I'm going to go to court," Dignoti remembers thinking.

Luckily, Dignoti never wired any more money because she realized she had been scammed  There never was a dog or shipping company.  It was a clever scammer who played on Dignoti's emotions and succeeded in swindling her out of $3,000.

Dignoti says, "It's hurtful to know that there are awful people out there that take a puppy and tug at your heart and then know that this is where we've got you."

It's a valuable lesson, Dignoti says, and she hopes others will learn from her mistake.  In the meantime, Dignoti has a new puppy in her life.  She and her son went to the Arizona Humane Society recently and adopted a little puppy they named Pandora.  Pandora cost $180, and not only came with immunizations, she also came with a Microchip.

3 On Your Side always dissuades consumers from wiring money to people whom they don't know.  In nearly 100 percent of cases, wiring money for a transaction is a scam.