Too good to be true: Woman loses $6,500 to ‘free puppy scam’ on Facebook

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CLEVELAND, Ohio — A local woman planning to surprise her husband with an English Bulldog puppy fell victim to a scam after a Facebook offer that was too good to be true.

According to the BBB, she responded to the offer from another woman who was “moving” and willing to give her puppy away for free. English Bulldogs sell for several thousand dollars. The taker just had to pay for shipping.

But that’s where the scam began, said the BBB. The shipping service required payment in advance and kept adding on charges. Before the victim realized she’d been scammed, she’d paid nearly $6,500.

The BBB said such puppy scams are becoming more and more popular, because scammers can easily post pictures of animals available at little or no cost. The scammer then only communicates by email or text, and seldom by phone. Payment must be made by wire transfers, Green Dot MoneyPak cards or other electronic payments that are virtually untraceable.

The BBB has the following tips to avoid scams when you’re looking to buy a pet:

  • Beware of ads with multiple misspellings and grammatical errors. Many pet scams come from overseas and scammers often do not have a firm grasp on the English language.
  • Do not be swayed by websites that appear to be professional or display photos of available pets. Photos are easily lifted from other legitimate breeder sites.
  • Scammers frequently offer “free” pets or claim they need to find a home for the animal due to relocation, deployment overseas, illness, or other hardship scenario.
  • Do not send or wire money to people you do not know.
  • If purchasing a pedigreed pet, be sure the breeder provides documentation of the parents’ registration with the appropriate kennel club. This ensures that the pet is in fact a legitimate pure-bred animal. It is then your responsibility to register your pet with the appropriate kennel club.