This tempting scam targets dog lovers, police say in new warning

With nicknames like “man’s best friend” and “furry baby,” it’s clear that we really love our dogs, especially here in the United States. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), nearly 40 percent of Americans, or more than 48 million households, run a canine companion. Unfortunately, scammers are always looking for new avenues to exploit, and now they’re taking advantage of dog lovers. Authorities have just issued a new warning about a scam that might be too tempting to avoid. Read on to find out what you need to be on the lookout for.

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Scam artists are always trying to come up with new ways to fool people, and as the schemes evolve over time, the authorities are doing their best to sound the alarm. In May, police in Connecticut and North Carolina began warning residents they were receiving reports of scammers using an impersonation technique to impersonate police officers during phone calls. Then last month, an Indiana police department issued an alert about an identity theft scam involving consumers receiving packages for orders they never placed. And just this week, police in Fairfax County, Virginia revealed that scammers had begun targeting people with fraudulent parking tickets on their cars.

But while fear is an easy emotion for scammers to exploit, some scammers are now looking to target Americans by shooting at their hearts instead.

woman walking dogs
Standret / Shutterstock

Social media sites like Facebook are saturated with posts about furry friends who need to find their forever home, but everything you see online might not be true. The Wentzville Police Department in Missouri recently issued an alert about scammers targeting dog lovers with these types of messages. “We are noticing a slight increase, or trend, in scams with deposits to reserve dogs,” Jacob Schmidta Wentzville Police Department public information officer told local NBC affiliate KSDK on July 25, adding that the department had received three “shocking” reports in just 10 days.

“We hear sad stories over and over again. People who wanted to give a pet a loving home and then found themselves with nothing,” Debbie Hillwho works with the Humane Society of Missouri, told KSDK.

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The Wentzville Police Department said this type of scheme, often referred to as a puppy scam, uses Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), puppy scams usually involve someone posing as a dog seller through fake social media advertisements. The “seller” says it requires potential buyers to send a refundable deposit to “hold” a particular puppy or make payment to have the animal shipped to their home.

According to Schmidt, this immediate request for money scams some people out of $300 to $1,400 with just one click. “They’re transferring money from Cash App and Venmo and things like that, which are legit services, but then they find out they’ve been scammed for them for that deposit,” Schmidt told KSDK.

Some scammers might even pose as real shelters. Police in Petersburg, Va., recently warned of scammers impersonating Petersburg Animal Care and Control via a Facebook page titled “Helping the Petersburg Animals,” local NBC affiliate WWBT reported Aug. 4. The page shows animals that are not currently available for adoption and solicits pet deposits, which the Petersburg shelter does not actually do.

elderly couple holding a dog

There are, of course, legit adoption or vendor posts on social media, so it’s up to you to determine what’s real and what’s fake. Fortunately, experts say there are telltale signs of scams to be aware of. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), red flags include sellers who prefer to handle communication via email instead of phone, photos of the dog that can be found on multiple websites, sketchy payment requirements , prices that seem too good for a certain breed, and breeders claiming to have “badges” because the AKC “does not give out badges to breeders.”

“If you’re going to buy from a breeder, you have to go to that establishment, you have to meet the person, you have to see where the animals are raised,” Hill warned. “Work with someone who has a good reputation. If you can’t do that, say no.”