BALTIMORE – After her dog died, Lori Hayes hoped to make up for the grief with a new puppy. She found a photo of a 10 week old black pug named Barbie on a site called “Classic Pug Family” and immediately fell in love.
“They wouldn’t accept credit cards, they would only accept Zelle or gift cards. So at this point I’m desperate I sent them the money. It was $ 650 for the dog and $ 250 for the shipping. I sent it through Zelle, so they had $ 900, ”Hayes said.
Two days later, she received an urgent email from the company.
“To say they need an extra $ 680 because it’s summer that they had to ship the dog in an air-conditioned crate,” Hayes said. “I want this dog, so I’ll give them the money.”
She receives the transport information and the flight number, then another urgent message.
“Stating that there is a customs charge for the dog at JFK airport.” I think it was $ 1,500, ”Hayes recalls.
Hayes called John F. Kennedy International Airport and a worker confirmed there was no such charge. The seller, however, was not letting go.
“They said your dog is stuck in the pound, not getting food, not being taken care of, conditions are horrible at the airport and it’s your fault because you’re not paying that $ 15.00 fee that the airport supposedly implemented, on top of the $ 1,700 to $ 1,800 that I’ve already paid them, ”Hayes said.
Hayes didn’t send any more money, and the con artist stopped responding. And since Hayes authorized the transactions, she couldn’t get the money she sent through Zelle.
“I think I’m going to have a pug, my hopes were so high that someone would knock on the door with a new puppy, and it was just a scam,” said Hayes.
Puppy scams cost consumers around $ 3 million last year, according to a Better Business Bureau study.
“Starting with COVID, puppy scams have been prolific and one of our top scams for almost two years,” said Angie Barnett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving greater Maryland.
She added that an easy way to control pet sites is to use the photos they post.
“Do a reverse Google image search and see how many other websites are using that particular photo,” Barnett said.
Also, look at the contact information and address of the company.
Classic Pug Family claimed to be in Pasadena, Maryland. The same address is linked to a website selling Boston Terrier puppies. However, a local resident confirmed to the BBB that they had nothing to do with either of the companies.
And while Hayes took out nearly $ 2,000, she moved on with the help of Luna, her new puppy.
“You know my heart is full again. I have my dog, but I really want to warn everyone, please, please do your homework, ”said Hayes.
Hayes met Luna in person, so she knew she wouldn’t get ripped off again.
If you’re looking to add a pet, visit your local shelter or animal shelter.
The American Kennel Club also has a local breeder search feature.