coronavirus pandemic

Pandemic Puppy Scams ‘Skyrocketing': How to Sniff Out a Scam

In Connecticut, there have been more than 40 recorded puppy scams in 2020 costing residents more than $26,000.

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Pets are getting a lot of people through the challenges and isolation of the pandemic. But some people are taking advantage of families looking for a puppy companion – the Better Business Bureau reports that puppy fraud has skyrocketed in recent months.

Mary Crotty of Canton experienced it.

“I live on social security and I’m out $1,600 and I’m going ‘oh my God what have you done?’ And so that’s why I came to you guys,” said Crotty.

This summer, when she couldn’t find a small dog at a shelter, she connected with someone online who said they were selling “Bella.”

“I’m embarrassed to say this, but she wanted $350 sent to her in a gift card from Walmart. You think that’d be my whistle right there, but it was not.”

Crotty sent the card across country, but the requests kept coming,

“The shipping company emailed and said they needed $850 for some kind of a crate.”

…and coming.

“We need another $420 for some kind of shots, and I thought God I’m so invested what am I going to do?”

After all that, Bella never showed up. The alleged transportation company even sent Crotty a tracking number.

When you type it into their website,, what appears to be Crotty’s detailed shipping order for Bella appears.

NBC Connecticut has called and emailed them and the dog’s supposed seller multiple times.

We received no answers.

“Of course there’s no puppy! There’s no people!” said Crotty.

Canton police helped Crotty get some cash back, but they say that’s probably the best they can do for this one as it’s very difficult to track down scammers.

In this case, the sale was supposedly coming from Watford City, North Dakota.

Watford City police said scam artists have been picking random addresses from their city for months now.

“I just want people to know that there’s nasty people out there that are not interested in working for a living and they’re just interested in scamming us little old people which really cranks me up,” said Crotty.

It’s not just senior citizens that are getting targeted for scams.

The Better Business Bureau says reports nationwide have more than tripled over the last couple of months.

In Connecticut, there have been more than 40 recorded puppy scams in 2020 costing residents more than $26,000.

How you can sniff out a puppy scam? If you’re thinking of buying a puppy, paw over these points:

The Better Business Bureau suggests these tips:

  1. Try to see it in person first
  2. Avoid wiring money, using an app or a gift card
  3. Do your research
  4. Consider adopting from a local shelter

Local advocates say scammers are taking advantage of folks being stuck at home.

“People have been home more often than they’ve ever been, and they’ve been using technology more than they’ve ever been just to stay connected to the outside world and scammers know this,” said Byron Peterson, the lead volunteer for AARP’s local Fraud Watch Network.

“It has nothing to do with how smart you are. Anybody can be a target,” said Erica Michalowski, AARP Connecticut’s community outreach director.

Despite working virtually these days, these AARP CT teammates teach people of all ages how to spot and avoid scams.

“They will try every trick in their book and they are getting real good at it because people are home,” said Michalowski.

These fraud prevention specialists have seen a range of scams: from lottery, charity, romance, computer updates and customer service scams.

“Did you order a package? If you didn’t, maybe it’s a scam,” said Michalowski.

Their number one piece of advice:

“When in doubt, check it out is what we always say,” she said.

If you’ve been targeted by a scam or have any questions about something, you can give them a call: 877-908-3360 - Fraud Watch Helpline.

Meanwhile, Crotty won’t let the scammers ruin anymore of her 2020.

“Shame on them because karma is what it is, so it will come back to them," she said.

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