If you're scouring online ads searching for a new puppy, the Better Business Bureau is warning of a scam that's been circulating.
They said the scammer places a classified ad claiming to want to re-home a puppy on behalf of an ill family member. The dog is free, but you must pay to have the dog sent to you through a specific shipping company.
The shipper claims their bank accounts are being audited and falsely states they can't accept deposits so the fee must be sent through Western Union.
Once the money is sent, the seller becomes unreachable and no puppy arrives.
Kristin Matthews with BBB Atlantic said it's been affecting people all across the country.
"These companies are claiming to be located in Halifax," she explained. "We've done our research and these companies do not exist."
A website for the fake shipping company lists two Halifax addresses, however Matthews says a quick Google Maps search quickly reveals a big red flag.
"One was an actual residential address and the other address was for the Halifax airport terminal," she told NEWS 95.7's The Sheldon MacLeod Show. "That just goes to show if you do that extra bit of research, then you can really save yourself a lot of hardship."
Not to mention hundreds of dollars, posts to the BBB's scam tracker website reveal most victims have lost between $400-500 each.
Matthews said if a business has accounts that are under audit, they can still accept payments.
She added wire transfers are often used in scams because they are difficult to trace.
The BBB have offered up the following tips to avoid being a pet scam victim:
- Inspect the pet yourself by arranging to meet with the prospective seller in person. Most legitimate sellers will welcome the visit. There is no good way to be sure you are not dealing with a fraud if you have no direct in person contact with the seller.
- If you can't meet the seller in-person, there are still precautions you can take. You can reverse-image search the picture of the puppy on Google to see if the photo has been used anywhere else. If it has been, it is likely the seller is a fraud.
- Copy and paste text from the online classified posting into a search engine to see if the same language has been used in other postings.
- Exercise extreme caution if you aren't able to select a shipping company of your choosing, or if you're asked to send money to a seller via wire transfer.