Online pet scams are on the rise

Local News

If you go online looking at pictures of cute puppies and other animals for sale, think twice before sending anyone money. Investigators believe at least 80 percent of posts advertising pets on the internet may be fake. 

Teresa Hearon couldn’t resist the offer she saw on Craigslist for a teacup Yorkie at a great price in Chattanooga.

“They suckered me in,” said Hearon. “They took me for $550 and no puppy.”

The original price of the puppy was $350 – pretty cheap for a dog that are often advertised on Craigslist for $1600 or more. Without questioning the seller, Hearon sent a money transfer from Walmart. 

Once she paid, Hearon was sent a certificate verifying a “change of ownership.” The seller, Michael Clifton, told her he was putting the puppy on a flight from Virginia. Then, Clifton texted her, saying the dog was stuck at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport and they needed $200 more dollars to buy a crate for the puppy.

After she sent the money via Moneygram, Teresa got another call — now $1,000 was needed for insurance.

At that point, Teresa’s husband, Charlie, knew it was a scam and told his wife to stop sending money.

Meanwhile, last December, Jessica Bates was looking forward to a new puppy to replace the dog she lost months earlier. On Craigslist, Jessica’s mother, Bonnie Bates, found an Alaskan Malamute for sale in Utah. Bonnie responded to the ad online while searching for pets. 

Within an hour, she was sent a photo of the dog from his owner in Utah. Just like Teresa’s Yorkie, the price was reasonable – $500. Then, she was told they would need a special crate for the dog, which would cost an additional $1,250, plus $250 to vaccinate the puppy.

“They called me back the next day and they tell me they don’t have a small crate. That I would have to have a bigger one,” Bonnie said. 

For that crate, Bonnie wired even more money and was sent a certificate showing she had paid nearly $4,000. But when they wanted another $1,500 for insurance, that was it.

The Federal Trade Commission warns to beware of pet scammers who use free websites, offer expensive breeds at low prices, send you pictures, want money for transportation, then for crates and then for insurance. Your best bet? Shop local.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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