LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — A new puppy is a great way to bring love and joy into any home. Who doesn't want that, especially while trying to make it through this pandemic.
"I was just so excited because I was going to get a puppy," says Linda Trantham.
"BROKE MY HEART"
She can't believe she fell for it. Someone took advantage of her and she's out $500. It all started back in December when Trantham had to say goodbye to her 12-year-old golden retriever.
"And it really broke my heart because I've had dogs almost my entire life," says Trantham.
She was hoping to adopt another golden retriever but didn't have any luck at local shelters. So Trantham searched online and found exactly what she was looking for.
"It was apparently eight weeks old and located in Los Angeles, California," says Trantham.
THERE WAS NO PUPPY
She called the breeder right away and found out he only had one puppy left from the litter. Trantham knew she had to act fast.
"I jumped in the car the same day," says Trantham.
But the drive ended on a sour note.
"I drove up there only to find out there was no puppy," says Trantham.
"I WAS ANGRY"
The address Trantham had led to an unoccupied house for sale. She tried reaching out to the breeder, but he stopped communicating.
"I was angry, but I was sad because I really, I think I was more sad about not getting the puppy," says Trantham.
"Good rule of thumb, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is," the Better Business Bureau's Rhonda Mettler.
She says thousands of Americans fall for online pet scams every year. Victims are young and old, but the majority are in their 20s and 30s. Crooks typically lure their victims with cute pictures and videos stolen from other websites.
"Consumers really should take a good, close look at that. If they're seeing the same puppy, the same pictures of puppies, then it's probably a fraudulent site," says Mettler.
The BBB recommends doing your research with the help of sites like PetScams.com. You can also check with the Humane Society for ways to identify legitimate breeders.
Along with cute images, scammers typically offer what seems like a good deal.
"That's a great tactic to get somebody to go, oh my goodness! Only $500 for this puppy? Sold!" says Mettler.
If you decide to do business with someone you found online, be sure you get a chance to see the dog before handing over any money.
"They should absolutely request to see the puppy face-to-face," says Mettler.
Also beware of unexpected charges. Many victims end up paying more than expected in bogus licensing or pet shipping fees. When it does come time to pay, don't wire the money or use a cash app. The BBB says the best way to pay...
"Credit card. Way easier to dispute," says Mettler.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Trantham learned her lesson the hard way and now she's hoping to spare someone else the same heartache.
"I think my heart just took over my brain. I just want the people of Las Vegas to know, do your research. Make sure that you see what you're buying first," says Trantham.
This article was written by Tricia Kean for KTNV.