The website veterinarians.org said it’s tracking hundreds of online puppy scams in 15 states, including Florida, and some are cheating buyers out of thousands of dollars.
California tops the list of states for puppy scams, followed by the Sunshine State. Just days ago, Angie Morante, of Pembroke Pines, lost $700.
She said she joined a Facebook group that appeared to feature puppies for adoption in the Jacksonville area.
“They sent me the pictures, videos and everything,” Morante said.
The price for the puppy was $1,000, but she said she was told that she only had to pay $700 upfront and that the remaining $300 would be due after the puppy arrived at her doorstep. She was expecting the puppy to be sent from Jacksonville to her home at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Instead, she received an email asking for more money.
“They said, ‘You have to pay $1,000 for the insurance. I didn’t know they needed insurance.’ And I said, ‘How did you not know? It’s your business.’”
She said she realized it was a scam when the person she was in contact with couldn’t answer the question.
The shipping information she received shows that the dog was supposed to be sent from an address on 4th Street in Jacksonville. News4JAX visited the address only to find it was a rental home.
Lily Velez, head of public relations for veterinarians.org, says the scams are an ongoing issue, especially during the holiday season. The animal advocacy organization and watchdog group has been tracking puppy scams for several years.
She said Morante’s experience is, unfortunately, a common one.
“These scammers are using fake addresses or addresses that are just residential homes that have nothing to do with a breeding business,” Velez said. “There’s an upfront payment as a deposit for the puppy, but over the next few weeks, the scammer is going to ask for transportation fees, vaccination fees and shipping fees.”
Velez says the scammers also send electronic confirmation letters and shipping receipts that look legit.
According to veterinarians.org, data collected between January and October shows that Florida is No. 2 on a list of 15 states in the U.S. for puppy scams. During that January to October period, 113 puppy scams were reported to Better Business Bureau offices throughout the state.
Experts warn that number is likely much higher because that data only reflects what was reported to the BBB and not the number of puppy scams directly reported to law enforcement.
Velez points out that the numbers by the BBB are constantly changing.
As for Morante, she said she never heard back from the person she was in communication with, and the Facebook page that she thought was real is no longer on Facebook.
The money was immediately withdrawn from her account. Had she used a credit card, she would have had 60 days to dispute the transaction.
Notably, the most sought-after puppies in these scams are toy breeds. The French bulldog and Yorkshire terrier top the list.