If your holiday plans include welcoming a new furry friend, one woman learned the hard way you can't trust every adorable puppy ad you see.
Bridget Huddleston wanted a new puppy for the holidays.
"I'm looking for a small lapdog puppy," she said.
She found a blonde Yorkshire Terrier in a Facebook group, offered at a great price.
"It was $200," she said.
Huddleston fell in love. She showed us videos and images the seller had sent to her. All she had to do was buy a Visa gift card, and send the numbers to the out-of-state seller.
As soon as she did that, the seller said the puppy was on its way.
"They sent me pictures during transit," she said. "They even gave me updates along the way."
But when she got to the airport, there was no dog. No airport baggage staffers knew anything about a puppy in a crate.
"I was at the 3A pillar where they told me to wait, " she said. "I sat there for hours!"
The seller and her money were gone.
Why it is so easy to be scammed
Puppy scams flourish during the holiday season, because so many people want a new dog for the new year.
And many local breeders won't have a new litter of puppies until next spring, so hopeful buyers scout Craigslist, Facebook groups, and other sites for puppies for sale.
But the Better Business Bureau says buying a puppy online is among the riskiest purchases you can make, because it says as many as 80 percent of sponsored pet ads are fake.
And of those targeted in 2020, the BBB says 70 percent lost money.
Brandi Munden with the American Kennel Club says scammers are everywhere on social media in November and December, because "they know that people are trying to get a puppy underneath the tree."
How to protect yourself
The BBB says when choosing a dog...
- Meet the seller in person, or at least do a video chat: tell them to hold the puppy up to the camera in a Zoom call. If they won't do it, there probably is no puppy for sale.
- Do a price comparison, and be suspicious if the price is much lower than breeder quotes.
- Watch out for copycat or stock photos: you can do a Google reverse search on the image, and see if that puppy has popped up on other websites.
- Another red flag is a seller demanding extra money for shipping and handling at the last minute.
"They do not need a nanny for handling, they do not need a temperature-controlled crate," she said.
The easiest way to avoid pet scams is to check out a local animal shelter where you can see a cat or dog in person.
Bridget Huddleston is out $200, but says the hardest part is the loss of a puppy she fell for.
"If I can help the next person to know and prepare themselves, then at least something will come of this, " she said.
That way you don't waste your money.
Don't Waste Your Money" is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. ("Scripps").
Like" John Matarese Money on Facebook
Follow John on Instagram @johnmataresemoney
Follow John on Twitter (@JohnMatarese)
For more consumer news and money saving advice, go to www.dontwasteyourmoney.com