Ohio's Attorney General is warning consumers about a new online puppy scam that's leaving prospective pet owners out an average of more $1,000 per victim.
In a press release, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said that more than two dozen Ohio residents had been victimized by the same type of online scam over the last two years.
The scam typically involves an online ad for a desired breed of dog at a lower-than-usual price. The seller requests that the buyer send money by wire or on a prepaid card for shipping expenses. The buyer sends the money, but never receives the dog.
Red Flags That You Might Be Getting Scammed
According to DeWine, here are some red flags that the online dog ad you're replying to may be 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, and
- Claims that there was an insufficient shipping container.
How to Protect Yourself
When buying animals online, just like when buying cars, houses or any other major purchase, there are a few pretty straightforward rules to follow. For example:
- Always try to deal locally. The farther away the seller is from where you live, the more likely it is that you're going to get scammed.
- Never buy anything you haven't seen. Especially when it comes to a large purchase like a car or a pet, never buy anything that you haven't actually laid eyes on unless it's from a reputed, well-known seller.
- Never send money via Western Union or other wire services. Anyone who asks you to wire money is likely a scammer.
If you've been the victim of a consumer scam, contact your state's consumer protection agency. You may also want to contact a consumer protection attorney, who may be able to help you try to get your money back.
- Beware of Online Pet sales, DeWine Warns (The Columbus Dispatch)
- 15 Online Behaviors That Make You Vulnerable to Scams (FindLaw's Common Law)
- Online Job Scams On the Rise: 5 Tips to Protect Yourself (FindLaw's Common Law)
- Online Rental Scams: 5 Tips, 5 Red Flags (FindLaw's Common Law)