3 ON YOUR SIDE (3TV) - Pet scams come in all kinds of different versions during the holiday season.
Sometimes the scammer poses as a breeder or maybe acts as a distraught owner who has to get rid of their cute little puppy for whatever reason. For instance, some fraudsters say they’re going into the military or are moving into an apartment that doesn’t allow animals. The reasons are countless.
That’s why the Better Business Bureau just issued an alert warning consumers to not fall for the scam this holidays season.
It’s a topic 3 On Your Side has talked about numerous times before, including a viewer by the name of Mackenzie Umpleby.
“I've actually just lost my dog of 10 years in January. And then, two months ago, I lost my cat," Mackenzie told 3 On Your Side.
Umpleby had a dog named Macy and a cat named Diesel but both died. So, Umpleby says she and her boyfriend thought long and hard and decided that now just might be the time to get another dog.
"We were excited," said Umpleby.
So, Umpleby got on to Craigslist and came across an advertisement for a little German shepherd puppy named Picasso.
"We just got super excited and said that's the one. It was love at first sight,” she told us.
Picasso was reportedly out of state. However, the company agreed to ship the puppy to Umpleby if she wired them $650 for the dog along with $100 for shipping.
“We were like, we've waited long enough, we can afford this," she said.
“So, you paid around $750?” 3 On Your Side’s Gary Harper asked.
"Yes, that's what we paid," she replied.
After wiring $750, Umpleby waited until the next day when she got another email saying Picasso was in route, but that Umpleby now needed to pay an additional $1,400. The fee was reportedly for insurance to ensure the dog arrived safely.
But, when Umpleby said absolutely not because she couldn't afford that amount, the so-called pet company threatened to have police criminally charge her for pet abandonment.
"I'm sitting there and I'm being threatened with animal abuse charges saying I'll be charged with mistreatment. They have my address and everything they need to convict me," she told us.
So, Umpleby wired another $1,400 and once again waited until the next day. That's when the company wrote her again requesting an additional $970. This time the money was for vaccinations and permits.
Reluctantly, Umpleby sent the money. However, as soon as she did, something told her to cancel the transaction and she did cancel it just in time to prevent the $970 from going through.
"So, that's when I said every red flag popped up and I thought back on everything and I was like this is a complete scam," she said.
She was right. It was a scam. However, by now, she had already forwarded more than $2,100.
Here's how the scam works. Conmen click on dog pictures that they find on the internet, like Picasso, and paste them into a fake online company that they fabricated.
Then, they wait for unsuspecting victims like Umpleby to fall in love with the photo and the trap is set.
Umpleby hopes no one else falls for it.
“$2,100. That’s all my bills in a month. I'm working two jobs and I'm only 19. That's a lot of money to acquire and save up," she said.
Remember, always see the pet in person and don't rely on pictures you see on the internet. Research prices and never, ever wire money. If you’re asked to wire money, you’re getting yourself involved in a scam.