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BBB warning: Puppy scams during COVID-19

Posted at 12:02 AM, May 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-06 00:09:15-04

FILLMORE, N.Y. (WKBW) — Puppy and the pandemic. The Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York says puppy scams are targeting more and more Western New Yorkers during the pandemic. At least seven cases in Western New York have been reported to the BBB.

One of those cases happened to Naomi from Fillmore. She only used her first name for protection.

Naomi was looking to adopt a 10-week-old Bernese Mountain puppy named Maggie from a breeder called “Bernese Puppies” out of Atlanta. Or so that’s what she thought when she reached out in early April after a google search for her dream dog. That search took her to this now unregistered domain.

“I would say the puppy journey has been a long one. It’s been a letdown,” Naomi said in a phone interview Tuesday.

Over the course of 12 hours, Naomi exchanged dozens of texts with the breeder. She was sent photos and videos. Although weary throughout the entire process, Naomi eventually sent through a deposit of $300 via Paypal. Shortly after that payment the breeder stopped answering.

“We should’ve followed the too good to be true thing, but our hearts didn’t let us,” Naomi said.

After not hearing back from the breeder, Naomi started searching names and numbers, only to find out this breeder is a scammer. She did eventually get a refund, but it wasn’t until she posted a warning on social media about this breeder that she realized she wasn’t alone.

“We’re seeing an uptick in reports of puppy scams because people are home. They got the time. They want to have that time to take care of that dog,” Melanie McGovern with the BBB of Upstate New York said.

Naomi shared her story with McGovern and the BBB, which alongside others across the country, is investigating “Bernese Puppies” and other related so-called breeders.

“People are relying on the internet to do their search because no one can go anywhere and unfortunately the scammers know that,” McGovern said.

This isn’t a new scam, rather one that’s resurfaced. Regardless, the BBB said for those looking to buy a puppy online, here are some things to look out for:

  • There’s no physical address.
  • The website looks quickly put together.
  • The price seems too good to be true.
  • The breeder is only offering to communicate over text and email.

“It’s just like even buying a product. We always tell people check more than one source. So you go to BBB’s website, you go to google, you take the time to look at reviews,” McGovern said.

With the ordeal behind her, Naomi was finally able to adopt her dream puppy, Cersei. She continues to echo, though, the BBB’s recommendation because although she got her money back, she knows many others won’t.