KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s a scam that tugs at the heartstrings.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has teamed up with the Humane Society of the United States to prevent scams involving puppy mills and pets that don’t exist.
The attorney general’s office says people in the U.S. spend more than a billion dollars each year on scams like these. The scams start with pictures online that grab your attention and your heart.
“He was so cute. He was like one of those little speckled ones. He was a little potato dog,” Bayli Brook, a victim of one these scams, said.
Brook and her boyfriend wanted a dog. They saw a picture of a puppy named Blake on a Facebook page called “Corgi Puppies For Sale.” She sent a message with her intention to buy the 10-week-old puppy.
“It seemed real. Didn’t seem like an automated response,” Brook said.
Brook and her boyfriend paid $850. They were told shipping was free and her new dog was headed from Pennsylvania to Michigan.
But then Brook got another request for money, supposedly for vaccines. She paid $800 for the shots and another $950 for registration.
Brook’s savings were gone, but she got another request for money. The scammer asks Brook to buy Amazon gift cards and send a picture of the back. Brook complied with the request.
After paying $2,400, the tracking number Brook had been given came back as bogus, her Facebook messages wouldn’t go through to man she’d been dealing with and she saw the same picture of the dog she was trying to buy online a couple of days later.
This whole scam, including the phone conversations, Facebook messages and emails, happened over two days.
Brook spoke with two people during this scam, the man behind the Facebook page and the man who claimed to work for Royal Air, the company that was going to ship her puppy from Pennsylvania to her home in Kalamazoo.
“He was calling me, and I was calling him. I actually had phone conversations with both people I talked to,” Brook said.
Brook never got her dog, and her messages and phone calls won’t go through.
“It’s a lot of money, but it’s just money,” Brook said.
Troy Baker of the Better Business Bureau says online scams are second on its list of riskiest scams. Of all the online scams reported to the BBB, puppy scams were number one.
“The scammers are counting on you seeing a puppy and falling in love and really making that emotional connection,” Baker said. “You have to see the dog in person. You have to actually hold the dog, pet the dog, play with the dog.”
Baker says online scams often come with offers that are hard to resist. He urges buyers to do a quick search of the image online before paying for an animal.
“That will tell you real quick that this isn’t a puppy that’s really for sale, this is a puppy that’s out there to draw you in and get you scammed,” Baker said.