The Better Business Bureau serving Greater Iowa, Quad Cities and Siouxland Region has uncovered a scam involving the identity theft of one unsuspecting Carroll, IA resident. These internet scammers go by the name, Sarah’s French Puppies and they claim to be located at a valid residential address in Carroll, Iowa.
The common denominator amongst consumers interviewed by the BBB is that they were looking for local breeders selling French bulldog puppies on the website, hoobly.com, a free local ad posting site. The BBB spoke with consumers who responded to fake ads and believed they were communicating with someone local. The scam artist posing as a breeder told them that they had just sold the puppy but knew a “co-breeder” that they recommended with a new litter of pups. The consumers were then given a different email address and told to contact an alternate breeder.
For one Massachusetts consumer, the “other breeder” hooked her by sending a flood of emails about the necessity of finding just the right home, pictures of the puppy and even references. Once it is established that the puppy and prospective owner were a perfect match and “contracts” were signed, the consumer was instructed to wire $650. After the money was successfully wired, the consumer received phony flight information and at this point, all email correspondence ceased.
The real Sarah in Carroll, Iowa informed the BBB that she has nothing to do with puppy breeding and she has since alerted her local authorities.
The Better Business Bureau offers the following warning signs and tips when looking for a pet through classified ads either online or in the paper:
• Scammers can deceive potential pet buyers by using stolen photos from legitimate postings. They even go as far as stealing the entire ad text from legitimate breeders or reputable websites. If you are suspicious, listen to your gut instinct. One website suggested even going as far as asking for a photo of the animal with a current newspaper in the background.
• According to the Humane Society, tens of thousands of dogs are shipped into the U.S. from puppy mills in foreign countries and purchased by people over internet sites. Many of these people who are lucky enough to receive their pet find that they are often sick and or die from health problems. Never buy a dog from someone who says they are out of the country or overseas even if they state they are Americans. If at all possible, it is best to buy a pet from someone who you can visit to see the environment in which is comes from.
• Stay away from prices that sound too good to be true. Breeding dogs takes time and money. Depending on the breed, if the dog you want typically cost $1000, don’t be swayed by ads for half the price.
• Lastly, never wire money- this is not a safe method of payment and is always a tell-tale sign of a scam. Scammers want payments via wire transfer such as Western Union or Money Gram because they can disguise who and where they really are.
Adopting a pet is a huge responsibility that can reap a lifetime of rewards, so don’t start off your search for a furry companion on the wrong foot. While scammers will always proliferate, you can protect yourself by educating yourself on what to look out for. As always, remember to check out companies with your local Better Business Bureau where you can also receive valuable consumer advice and information on the latest scams in your area.