GRANTS PASS, Ore. – The Better Business Bureau is sending out a warning about websites trying to sell you cats and dogs that don’t really exist.
A Grants Pass couple recently fell victim to the scam. They are hoping you can learn from the mistake that cost them hundreds*of dollars.
Linda and Roy Dwy love their 2 pugs, Max and Bailey. “They are part of the family,” Linda explained. “They are like kids.”
But Max is 12 years old and his health is starting to deteriorate.
Since they don’t want Bailey to feel lonely when the time comes, they’ve started searching the web for a new companion.
“I typed in pugs for sale and this website came up,” Linda said. “The dogs were half price because they were at least 4 months old. I found one I really like and so we contacted back and forth through emails.”
Linda felt like she was doing her due diligence, even asking for references. But she said that’s where she missed the first of many red flags.
“In one of the emails he got, they said they were an older couple but the Gentleman I talked to was from the Middle East someplace, you could tell in his accent,” Linda said.
After deciding to move forward, Linda sent a total of $550 through Western Union to cover the cost of the dog and shipping from the alleged seller on the other side of the country.
But because of the snow storm back east on that day, they could not ship him out on that day.
Linda said she was informed the dog would need special handling, a climate control kennel. That would cost her another $1,200 while waiting out the storm.
It’s another common tactic to squeeze money from victims according to Stephen Mayer with Oregon’s Better Business Bureau. He said, “In some of these cases, these schemes can get pretty sophisticated and get multiple parties involved and consumers just don’t realize until it’s too late that something is going on.”
Mayer said these fake sites are everywhere. In fact, if you search for a pet online you’re more than likely to find a fake site almost immediately.
Linda never heard from the sellers again after that snowstorm passed and both the website and phone number vanished.
“My mind doesn’t go to people taking advantage of things,” Linda said. “Especially when it comes to pets. I should have probably known better but I didn’t.”
Linda said from now on, she’ll only deal with local sellers that she can meet in person. “Lesson learned. It’s a hard lesson, but you know you live and learn.”
Mayer said there are a few red flags to look out for to spot a fake pet seller. First, look for grammar errors on the website. Also, be sure to check to address bar and see if the website is secure. You’ll know if it starts with “https”
Ask lots of questions. Make sure they are knowledgeable about the animals.
And finally get more than one reference from recent customers and ask about how the experience played out for each of them.
As for the Dwy’s, they were heartbroken they didn’t receive the dog. They are currently in talks with a local breeder for a new pug.