Better Business Bureau warns of pet scams before holiday season

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB)- The Better Business Bureau reports pet scams are America’s number one Internet ripoff, and going into the holiday season, they say it could get a lot worse.
A young mother in Orchard Park is finding that out the hard way, so she Called 4 Action.

Sheltering in place, working from home, a feeling of isolation during this pandemic is leading to loneliness and many folks, in looking for companionship are trying to fill that need with a pet.

But as Melanie McGovern of the Better Business Bureau tells us, the scammers have already figured that out.

“These puppy website are very elaborate. They show videos of the puppies, they show photos of the puppies. All of the puppies have names.”

McGovern says the scammers are working overtime.

“In our Scam Tracker, under online purchase scams, pet scams is the number one sub-category because a lot of people across North America fell for this scam.”

Alyssa Bartlomiejczak was a victim of fraud and sent over $2,000 for a puppy she never got. She was trying to buy a pet for her one-year-old daughter using Google Pay, the peer-to-peer smartphone app.

Alyssa said the cost of the puppy was $950, but at the last minute, she got an email identified as the air carrier for the puppy demanding $1,300 for shipping. She used prepaid debit cards but eventually, Alyssa could see this was an elaborate hoax.

“I’m like I’ve got to get this money off your cards as soon as possible. Like I am getting scammed. All my money is gone, literally all the money I have to my name, I don’t have no more money anymore because of these people.”

For the best results, Melanie McGovern advises start local.. find a certified breeder, or adopt a pet from the SPCA.

“You want to be able to go see the dog, to see how that dog interacts with you. A lot of people might not get along with certain animals, or certain animals might not get along people. So you want to make sure that animals will get along with you and your family.”

Bartlomiejczak has filed a police report and is working with Google Pay to try to get her $950 back.
She is also trying to cancel the $1,300 in prepaid debit cards–that was her Christmas money.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here.

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