(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today warned that some animal breeders and sellers who advertise online are con artists.
In 2015, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office received about 30 complaints from consumers who said they bought a puppy or other pet online but never received anything in return. The average reported loss was approximately $1,200.
“Scammers go online, post cute pictures of a puppy, and get you to feel connected to the dog, even though it’s all a scam,” Attorney General DeWine said. “I would encourage anyone to ask to see the dog in person before making any payments.”
In a typical puppy scam, a consumer finds an ad for a puppy online. The consumer communicates with the seller, agrees to buy the puppy, and eventually wires a few hundred dollars to have the puppy delivered. After paying, however, the consumer never receives the puppy. Instead, the seller demands more money for insurance or transportation costs and threatens to turn in the consumer for animal abuse if the consumer refuses to pay.
Signs of a puppy scam include:
Offers that are too good to be true, such as paying $650 for a puppy valued at $1,300.
Sellers who require payment via wire transfer or money order.
Extra costs for airline pet insurance or a temperature-controlled crate.
Unexpected delivery problems requiring additional payment.
Threats that you’ll be turned in for animal abuse or neglect if you don’t pay.
Attorney General DeWine offered consumers the following tips to avoid scams:
Research breeders and sellers carefully. Check complaints filed with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office or the Better Business Bureau, and review feedback from other customers. Be skeptical if you find no information; some scam artists change names regularly to trick consumers. If possible, work with a local, reputable organization.
Conduct an online image search of the puppy’s photo to see where else the picture is posted on the Internet. (Search “how to search by image” for help determining how to do this.) If the same picture shows up in multiple places, it could be part of a scam.
Visit the puppy in person before paying. If possible, take the puppy to an independent veterinarian for a health exam.
Don’t trust sellers who accept payment only via wire transfer, prepaid card, or money order. These are preferred payment methods for scam artists because once the money is sent, it is very difficult to track or recover.
Consumers who suspect a scam should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.