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Watch out for online puppy scams during this pandemic

Posted at 8:19 AM, Feb 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-19 08:19:56-05

HIGHLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. — During this pandemic, many people have decided to adopt dogs. A lot of shelters are clearing out their kennels. It’s a good problem to have. But scammers are now trying to capitalize on that demand -- even adding a COVID-twist to pull at your heartstrings.

I saw a picture of four fluffy Sheltie puppies pop up on my Facebook feed. They were adorable!

Then I saw the words above the image from a so-called “Woods Taylor.”

"Hello guys, Sadly I lost my dad to COVID-19 so I’m giving out his puppies for adoption according to his Will, I’m his only child and I am a doctor at the covid19 emergency unit so I won’t have the time and attention the puppies will need“

She then encouraged Facebook users to private message her if interested in the puppies.

But directly above that – a scam alert from a west Michigan breeder:

"This is MY picture of MY puppies I had in fall 2020… admin please delete her post! This lady is trying to scam people!”

She went on to write that all of the puppies had already been placed in new homes last fall.

I contacted the breeder directly – who asked me to keep her identity private.

She had dozens of pictures of the puppies from the fall of 2020 showing the dogs with their identifying markings -- including the picture that was used in the “Woods Taylor” post.

Debbie Devers of Highland Township is President of the Shetland Sheepdog Club of Greater Detroit.

“He’s chill right now because he was running around,” she said as she held one of her dogs up to the camera for me.

She is aware of the online puppy scam problem, but this particular scheme with a coronavirus-twist disgusted her.

“I was shocked,” she said. “After you told me it was a scam, that somebody would say they were a doctor and somebody died of COVID, I mean, how to take advantage of people in this day and age!”

Devers has four tips if you’re shopping for purebred pups:

FOUR TIPS WHEN BUYING PUREBRED PUPPIES

1 – Visit akc.org to check out the American Kennel Club’s list of registered breeders.

2 - Ask for a live video call to see the puppy on facetime or video conferencing like Zoom.

3 - Ask for the dog’s health information – from testing results to their vet’s contact info.

“A reputable breeder will have done extensive testing – hips, elbows, thyroid, eyes,” said Devers.

4 – Set up an in-person meeting to see the dog.

If they don’t want you to come to their home due to the pandemic, you can mask up and meet outside, at a police department,or even a dog-friendly store.

Devers does not believe in shipping dogs.

Many scammers say they’ll ship a dog to you and require special crate fees, insurance, and more upfront.

I reached out to Facebook about fake pages. The social media giant reported it removed 1.3-billion fake accounts between October and December of 2020.
Yes, that’s 1.3-Billion with a B.

To report a Facebook account or page that is pretending to be you or someone else, click the three dots below the cover photo. Then click on “find support or report profile” option or “find support or report page.”

You can also report scams to the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker.

Don’t let a compelling story or cute pic trick you into paying for a pup you’ll never see.

That post by a “Woods Taylor” is now nowhere to be found ever since the west Michigan breeder put her on blast.

Bottom line – do not pay a deposit or a special “crate fee” or pet insurance before seeing a puppy in person.