Buyer beware: People being scammed trying to purchase puppies online

By Meaghan St Pierre - Producer

CANTON, Mich. - Canton police are warning residents to be careful when buying puppies online after receiving complaints about some out-of-state websites.

The sites contain pictures of puppies looking for a new home, tugging at people's heart strings.

"When it comes to puppies, it's part of their family, so they go online, find these pictures, then they are immediately attached or hooked to this puppy that they believe is going to be theirs," said Canton Community Relations officer Patty Esselink.

The Canton Police Department is investigating four separate cases of people trying to buy a puppy online, wiring money, but never getting a puppy.

Scammers will lure potential buyers with adorable pictures of puppies, ask for money to be wired and then make excuses of why they need more cash.

"They contact them then ask for an initial amount of money, then they will ask for a little more and call back and ask for more for a different crate or different shipping and in the end the individual has never received their puppy, but has lost out on thousands of dollars" said Esselink

A red flag to this scam, people are being asked to wire money for the dogs through a money gram or prepaid Green Dot card. Once money is wired, it is very hard to track and get back.

Esselink encourages people to do their homework before purchasing puppies online, research the business, and type it in a search engine with the words review or complaint to see what comes up.

"A lot of the sites being used currently, as soon as you enter them into the search engine, it immediately comes back that this is a scam and people will write their reviews on why it's a scam and what happened to them, so just do a little extra homework," Esselink said.

The easiest way to avoid these scams is to purchase the dog in-person, or adopt from a local shelter, but if you do want to purchase online make sure to take the proper precautions.

When buying online, Anna Chrisman, communications manager of the Michigan Humane Society, recommends following three R's: reputable, references and research.

First make sure that the breeder is reputable. Make sure they answer any questions you have about the dog,  that they can provide medical records for the dog including vaccinations. Also, ask them to disclose any health problems for the pet or previous problems with the parent.

Then make sure the seller is willing to provide references proving they are legitimate. A real seller or breeder should not have a problem giving statements from satisfied customers or documents from veterinarians caring for their animals. Hesitation to providing these papers should be a red flag for a potential buyer.

Finally, make sure to do your research on where you are looking to purchase your puppy from, and what kind of dog is right for you. Chrisman said this tip is two-fold:

First, look into the characteristics of different dog breeds, and which one works for your home. Some breeds are more active than others, long and short haired breeds are going to take a different level of care. Before looking for a dog, make sure you know which breeds are right for you.

Second is to research the breeder itself. Check other sources to make sure that it is a reputable source. Get in contact with the local regional or national kennel clubs to see if they know about the breeder. Or you can even do research online, checking online reviews, or warnings online. If all signs look good after this, then get in touch with the breeder.

Chrisman adds the following are good questions to include with yours (this list is not conclusive):

  • Can I meet the mother of the litter?
  • Can I see where the animals are kept?
  • How long have you been breeding
  • What types of dogs do you breed?
  • What kind of contract do you use?
  • If my animal becomes ill after I take it home, what type of coverage or guarantee do you offer?

Canton police said if you think you're being scammed, to please report it to them or your local police department so officers can investigate.

Also make sure to report it to the Better Business Bureau and the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.

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