Help Me Hank: Beware of popular puppy scams

' I never thought I would fall victim to something so stupid as this’

Hank Winchester has a warning about a popular puppy scam. For more Help Me Hank:

Some people are losing a lot of money in this scam.

We’re talking thousands of dollars. Thieves are preying on your emotions.

One woman in Canton Township lost more than $1,000. Her story is not unique. Scammers are out there trying to find you, and we have a warning that you need to know about.

How the puppy scam works

Our scam victim saw this mini golden doodle puppy online recently and the cute dog not only caught her attention but pulled at her heartstrings. She knew she needed to make him a member of her family.

She found the dog during a quick Google search and landed at the website, the website She sent more than $1,000 to the breeder, and he encouraged her to use the digital payments network Zelle. She also paid for shipping.

And then a phone call came saying that wasn’t enough, there are additional charges.

“I was told this transportation company was going to be overseeing the transfer of the puppy and they would be in contact with me the next day and had all these extra miscellaneous fees, $600 for this and $1,200 for this,” she said.

She wanted the dog, so she sent more money. When she was told to buy a gift card, she knew something was up and contacted the Better Business Bureau (BBB) here in Southeastern Michigan and quickly learned she had been scammed.

“It’s very violating. I never thought I would fall victim to something so stupid as this,” she said. “But they’re really sophisticated and good at what they do.”

Puppy scams on the rise, especially around holidays

She is not alone. Puppy scams are on the rise, not only during the pandemic but especially as we approach the holidays as puppies are popular gifts.

Laura Blankenship of the BBB recommends you do your research thoroughly and she has this advice for you:

“See if you can video chat with the animal, video chat with the person who is selling it. And if they are wary to do that or they want to communicate only via text or email, that’s a big red flag,” said Blankenship.

Our scam victim is now without her money and without her dog. She hopes you can learn from her mistake.

The bottom line is: Do your research. Don’t let that adorable photo force you to you make a quick decision without learning about the breeder, the animal itself and where your money is really going.

It’s a good time to consider pet adoption. In many cases it’s free or very low cost, and animals are in need of a home. They put up a cute photo and prey on you and work the emotions. If you really want the dog, an extra $500 or an extra $1,000 is worth not getting scammed.

About the Author:

Hank Winchester is Local 4's Consumer Investigative Reporter and the head of WDIV's "Help Me Hank" Consumer Unit. He works to solve consumer complaints, reveal important recalls and track down thieves who have ripped off metro Detroiters.