A couple from Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., has lost nearly $4,000 in an elaborate Internet and phone “puppy scam,” Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns.
One thief phoned the young mother last week to ridicule her, bragging how he had stolen the couple’s money. The family ordered a bulldog puppy from the scammer but never received it.
"They hurt me, but mostly they hurt my children,” the mother said.
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said the case is the latest example of schemes that have victimized consumers searching the Internet and classified ads for purebred puppies, dogs or other pets.
“Puppy scams have been going on for years, but rarely have we seen a case that is as heart-wrenching as this one,” Corey said. “For someone to steal money from a soldier and his family, knowing that he was overseas protecting his country, is absolutely despicable.”
The thieves reported that the puppy was being shipped from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area to Missouri. Just last week, BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota issued a news release, warning of similar scams claiming fake addresses in the Twin Cities area. That BBB said consumers had lost hundreds of dollars in the schemes.
The military family had been scouring ads and websites for a puppy for their three young chilldren when the husband, who is serving his second deployment with the Army in Afghanistan, discovered a website for Glen Bullies or Glenn Kennels at www.glennbulldogs.com. The site offered two bulldog puppies for sale at a price of $890 each, about half the amount usually charged for the breed.
The wife contacted the supposed breeder and agreed to buy one of the dogs. She paid for the dog by loading $890 onto a reloadable money card.
The man told her that the dog’s name was “Daisy” and said the animal would be flown to the Springfield-Branson National Airport the next morning. But after the wife drove two hours to the airport, the dog never arrived.
The scammers demanded additional wire transfer payments of $1,260 and $1,745 – allegedly for insurance and a special Missouri permit. They claimed the dog was en route to Missouri.
[bulldog puppy ad] The website displays this picture of "Daisy," but the same picture has been used on other websites.
At one point, the man claiming to be the breeder told the woman she would be charged with animal cruelty and jailed unless she made the $1,745 payment.
The woman said that while the additional charges were unexpected, she remained convinced that the puppy was on its way.
It was not until three days later – after a second trip to the airport and yet another request for money – that she began to get suspicious. By that time, the couple had sent the scammers $3,895.
BBB left a message at the phone number used by the supposed transporting company, but did not receive a response.
The man claiming to be the breeder, who identified himself as Glenn Karlson, told BBB: “I don’t want to speak with you,” and hung up. Soon after, Karlson called the woman at Fort Leonard Wood and joked about taking her money.
The woman said she and her husband had been saving for a trip back to their home in Mississippi, but decided to use the money instead to buy the dog as a companion for the children. BBB later discovered the kennel’s website had been created just days before the scam, and the photos of the puppies had been stolen from another website.
The thieves had corresponded extensively via email with the family, at one point telling them: “I can imagine the excitement boiling in the boys’ hearts now. Make preparations to welcome Daisy, and send me pictures. I will love to see how you all look together.”
BBB offers the following advice for consumers considering purchasing a puppy or other pet from a website or classified ad:
Thoroughly research anyone offering pets for sale. If it is a kennel or breeder, check to make sure the business address is legitimate and that the business is properly licensed.
Be extremely careful about buying a pet from anyone who you do not know. Be especially skeptical if the price is significantly lower than the usual price of a similar animal.
If at all possible, go to the location to pick up the animal. So-called “puppy scams” depend on buyers trusting that the animals will be delivered to them.
Be extremely cautious about paying for any animal by using a reloadable card or wire transfer. If your money is stolen, the chances of recovering it when using those payment methods are extremely low. Pay by credit card whenever possible in case you need to challenge the charge.
Make sure that you have health and immunization records for the animal. If the animal is registered, ask for paperwork.
Research the pet you are considering. Learn about the disposition of the animals in that breed, and about potential genetic problems that are common in that breed.
Be cautious about “puppy mill” dogs. The Humane Society of the United States says that simply because a website praises ‘home-raised’ or ‘family-raised’ puppies doesn’t mean the information is true. “Many puppy millers pose as small family breeders online and in newspaper and magazine ads.”
Consumers might consider adopting a spayed pet from a shelter.
Check out the breeder with Better Business Bureau by going to www.bbb.org or calling 314-645-3300.