Puppy scams among the top scams of 2022 in metro Detroit

Posted at 5:43 AM, Mar 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-17 11:00:07-04

(WXYZ) — Are you a big online shopper? Listen to this: The Better Business Bureau has just released a new report detailing the top scams of 2022.

Online purchase or online shopping scams remained the No. 1 riskiest scam type for the third year in a row.

Jackie Hilgendorf is someone who dealt with the scam. She was searching for boxer puppies late last August when she fell in love with a puppy named Queen from a breeder on Facebook.

She said she only communicated with them on Facebook Messenger.

Not being able to meet in-person or talk through live video or on the phone was the first red flag.
The second red flag was insisting she pay using a cash app only — Venmo or Zelle.
The third red flag was making her identify the two $300 payments as for "Friends" instead of for a "puppy." It didn't top there.

The breeder claimed that there was a family emergency that would prevent Jackie from picking up the puppy in person. Hilgendorf said they claimed it was a family funeral.

Then she was pressured to pay another $150 for the dog to be delivered.
She ignored that and drove to the East Lansing address listed on the breeder's Facebook page. But when she arrived, she ended up finding the home of an innocent senior citizen instead of a dog breeder.

Anna Chrisman, the Communications Manager at Michigan Humane, said she often hears from puppy scam victims.

"Do the research, do your due diligence. This is a 15-to-20 year commitment," she said.

I asked her where people should be doing their research.

“If you’re looking for a purebred dog, you can always start with the American Kennel Club – AKC," she replied. Then she added, "You should still try and meet the parents, live chat with them, and meet the puppy before putting a deposit down."

Another option of course is to adopt a puppy from a local shelter – like Michigan Humane.

The Better Business Bureau said Eastern Michigan consumers reported losing $130,000 to online shopping scams last year, with puppy scams among the most common complaints.

7 Action News has reported that online puppy scams really took off during the height of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021.
"Why are they still among the most popular scams out there?" I asked Laura Blankenship, Director of Marketing for the BBB of Eastern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

"They make these websites, they have all these beautiful puppies, and it's because they've stolen these photos from legitimate organizations, legitimate websites," Blankenship explained.

To avoid falling victim to an online puppy scam, always ask to see the puppy in person, or use a live video chat to talk to the breeder and see the puppy in real time.

Also, do areverse image searchof any pictures of your chosen puppy to make sure the photos haven't been stolen from other sites.

And always pay with a credit card so you can fight any questionable charges.

Hilgendorf shared her story with us to help prevent others from falling victim. She reported the scam to Facebook, the American Kennel Club, the Better Business Bureau, and the Michigan Attorney General's Office.