Seven months after Danny Shelton lost his beloved Weimaraner to cancer, he fell in love with the perfect puppy online.
She was a gray Weimaraner, only 10-weeks old with piercing blue eyes and sweet puppy wrinkles. Shelton immediately fell in love with her.
So Shelton, who is from Collinsville, eagerly contacted the seller. Shelton was so excited to buy a new puppy, he didn’t think about the legitimacy of the site.
The seller said he would ship the dog directly to his house, so Shelton sent him $700 for the puppy using MoneyGram, then waited. A few days later, he got another email from the seller, asking for $1,500 to pay for shipping.
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That’s when Shelton realized he had been scammed.
“I was pretty bummed out,” he said. “I was embarrassed by the whole situation of being taken advantage of. ... One moment of weakness, and the money was gone.”
Thousands of people fall victim to pet scams each year, according to a study done by the Better Business Bureau. The BBB ScamTracker has more 907 reports of scams involving pets, and a Federal Trade Commission report found 37,000 complaints involving pets. FTC found that less than 10 percent of fraud victims complain, so the problem may be much bigger than the numbers show.
“After paying for the pet, victims are then asked to pay for shipping costs,” Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said in a press release. “If they do, they’re asked to pay more and more for things like pet insurance and a special crate to ship the pet or even medical care. We’ve seen reports where they will be asked for more money because the pet is stranded at an airport, and they need money for food and water. The requests will continue to come until the victim finally realizes they’ve been a victim of fraud.”
Shelton never filed a police report, because he felt like nothing would be done about it, considering all of the larger crimes police have to deal with. But he kept records of the money spent and his bill of sale, just in case he ever needed it. He wants to see the person responsible for the scam he fell for in chains, he said.
The site Shelton tried to buy a dog from is still operating, and the dog he bought is still for sale. It is still listed as 10-weeks old, even though it has now been two months since Shelton was scammed.
Shelton plans to get another puppy in two months, but he said it’s aggravating that he’s spending double the money he would have otherwise for a dog he should have had by now. It took him months to get off the loss of his old dog, Lois, and this didn’t make it any easier.
“Shut down the site of this guy. I’d love to see him arrested,” Shelton said.
John Goodwin, senior director with the Humane Society of the United States, suggested consumers ask to see the dog in person before they close the deal or send any money to the seller.
To avoid getting caught up in a pet scam, the BBB recommends:
▪ Researching the business and owners carefully. The BBB offers a business profile to check a company’s reputation.
▪ Trying to pick up the puppy in person.
▪ Being careful buying a puppy from a stranger, and be skeptical if the price seems too low.
▪ Avoiding wiring money or using prepaid cards to pay for the pet. Use a credit card instead in case you need to challenge the purchase.
▪ Considering getting a rescue dog if a purebred isn’t a priority.