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CLEVELAND (WJW)– A puppy is a lot of work. But with more people working from home, many folks are looking for a special pet because they now have the time to commit to training.

Emily, we’re not using her full name, wanted to surprise her 8-year-old son with a boxer puppy for Christmas. So, she went online and searched for breeders and found what seemed like a good operation in Minnesota.

“They sent me pictures and a video of the puppy, and she seemed like a good puppy. I called them and asked questions and they answered everything.” Emily said.

Emily fell in love with the pup, so she and the breeder came to terms on a price, which she paid though Visa gift card.

He even sent her a tracking number through Amazon Logistics, which was flying the dog to Cleveland. But on the day the dog was supposed to be on the way she suddenly needed to rent a special carrier and then the dog got stuck at the airport

“I received another phone call and another email that she was in a layover in Wisconsin and due to COVID, Wisconsin required pet insurance. Or $1,300,”  Emily said.

It turned out to be a scam that cost Emily around $2,000. But Emily’s story is very familiar.

“I’ll go to the airport and pay to have the dog shipped, and he was like nope”.  

That is a woman named Carol in Michigan who was trying to buy a poodle online from a different seller and she almost had the same experience as Emily.

In fact, Better Business Bureaus across the country are sounding the alarm. 

“We hear it around the holidays because people want to put a puppy under the tree, but with COVID and with people being at home and people being isolated, these puppy scams have just exploded,” said Sue McConnell, with the Cleveland BBB.

McConnell said the scammers count on people falling in love with cute picture or video of the dog, which may lead them to ignore red flags about the process. Extra shipping fees and a reluctance to allow you to either pick up the animal or arrange your own shipping are red flags But more importantly demand to see the dog live.

If they won’t communicate with you live and show you this puppy by FaceTime or Zoom, that’s a red flag. Google the address and see what comes up.

Emily is working with her credit card company to recoup the charges, but she really wishes she could have had the dog she wanted for her family. She spoke out to warn other that there are people out there who will stoop to using love of dogs to take advantage of you.

“You think that people are inherently good and unfortunately, that’s not the case,” she said.

McConnell said if you are dealing with an online dog seller, do your research and check them out through the BBB or other trusted site. She said look for in-state breeders, if possible, because usually you can visit the dog in person.   

And as with all offers, she said if it looks too good, it may not be real.

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