SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – Several victims are out thousands of dollars all because of a puppy scam claiming to be based out of the Upstate.
The Better Business Bureau said a bogus breeder enticed would-be customers with a professional looking website.
In this 7NEWS Consumer Exclusive, what you need to know to avoid online pet scams.
When something tugs at your heartstrings like a puppy, it’s hard not to get swept up.
“Just got started looking at Frenchies and I was like ‘dear Lord in Heaven these are the stinking cutest dogs I have ever seen,'” Kelly Minor from Greensboro said.
Minor admits it was love at first site when she saw the French bulldog puppy “Adelle” on a website called DivineFrenchiesHome.com. The purebred was listed for half the going rate.
“I was like, ‘Do they not realize how much these dogs are going for right now? Or did I just stumbled onto a really good deal?’ So, they had me going. I was definitely on the hook,” she explained.
But as Ginger Watson with the Better Business Bureau can attest, a professional looking website does not mean it’s legit.
“It looks very much like a legitimate website. They have gone in, they have photos, they’ve typed up a lot of information about supposedly how they started. The more we researched this website is how we found the duplicate website,” Watson said.
That’s right. Another website, PoeticFrenchBulldogsHome.com, supposedly located in Alexandria, Virginia, has the same photos, the same phone number, and much of the same wording as DivineFrenchiesHome.com.
The BBB said both appear to be scam sites, even claiming a copyright date of 2018, but they were registered in January of 2021. The registration is out of the country, and there is no archived history.
So why did the scammers pick a Spartanburg address? It turns out the property on Hudson Street is a private home listed for sale online, and scammers often use those because they tend to be vacant.
The real Spartanburg homeowners even wrote in Google reviews: “Eight weeks later I still have people showing up at my house when this is a scam!”
But several victims never saw that warning. The BBB’s scam tracker report shows one Massachusetts couple lost $1350, and a woman in New Hampshire was conned out of $4300.
Watson said there’s no bigger scam indicator than a super low price.
“That’s a big red flag. Your other red flags on these are: they request large deposits, $1000 and up, or the full price of the puppy up front. The other is that they request it through various apps for payment, like Venmo or Cash App or Zelle or even a wire transfer, because those are very hard to trace and very hard to get refunded,” she said.
Minor said it was eventually the Venmo name that gave it away since it had nothing to do with the company.
“I’m like you might have almost had me until you sent me your Venmo name and then I knew you were a scam. I was like ‘Shame on you, shame on everything you guys are doing, y’all are bad news.’ And I never heard from them again. They didn’t respond back,” Minor said.
She said she was saddened to hear several others fell victim.
To protect yourself, be skeptical of Google reviews. The BBB found several that appear to be fake.
As for those photos, right click to do a reverse search so you can verify if they are truly original.
Fortunately for Minor, she not only didn’t lose money, but she eventually found a beloved French bulldog puppy from a reputable breeder. And she said the biggest lesson she learned is never to buy a pet over the internet without doing a video chat with the breeder to make sure the dog exists before paying a dime.
The BBB has reported both websites and DivineFrenchiesHome has been taken down.
Unfortunately, it is unlikely the victims will get their money back since the method of payment is virtually untraceable.
If would like to report a scam to the BBB, click here.