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Consumers losing money to online puppy scams

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Jun 14, 2014 at 10:07 AM

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today warned consumers to be skeptical of too-good-to-be-true offers for puppies or other pets for sale online.

In the last two years, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office has received more than 25 complaints from consumers who said they paid for a dog, cat, or other pet they found online but never received. The average loss is more than $1,000.

“Scam artists are always looking for ways to take advantage of others, and preying on people who are looking for new pets is another way to get consumers to part with their money,” DeWine said. “They’ll convince the consumer to send hundreds or thousands of dollars for a new puppy, but the puppy never arrives and the consumer is left disappointed or heartbroken.”

The scam often begins when the consumer goes online and finds an ad for a puppy. The advertised price may be lower than expected for that particular breed of dog. The seller asks the consumer to send money for shipping using a wire transfer service or prepaid money card. The consumer pays but never receives the dog and cannot recover the money.

Consumers should beware of the following red flags of a scam:

    Breeders who will communicate only online or via text message

    A low cost for a dog of a popular or expensive breed

    Sellers who ask for additional fees beyond the agreed-upon price

    Pets that are “free” to a good home

    Sellers who say they will refund the money once the puppy is delivered

    Shipping companies or couriers that keep contacting the consumer asking for more money

    Claims that there was an insufficient shipping container

To protect themselves from scams, consumers should deal with a local breeder who has a good reputation. They can check for complaints on file with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau, and they can seek information from animal adoption organizations. Consumers also should meet the puppy in person before sending any money.

Consumers who suspect a scam or unfair business practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.

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