Denver, CO

Denver police warn of puppy scams

David Heitz

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Don’t be duped by an adorable puppy ad.

The Denver Police Department warned Saturday on its Facebook page of a scam involving the purchase of Poodle pups.

“On Sunday, June 27, a fraud victim called into the District 2 station to file a police report," according to police. "The victim explained that she tried to order a puppy online when she came across a website selling Poodle mixes. Based on the pricing listed on the website, the cost of the dog and shipping to Colorado would cost $1400.”

The site directed buyers to pay via a mobile payment service, “which the victim did,” police explained. “After sending payment over, the victim then got a phone call from a suspect who explained that she needed to fill out additional paperwork and again, submit payment via the mobile payment service. After completing the transaction, the victim got a second call from another suspect who claimed to be with a pet insurance company.

“They explained that she needed to pay another $1,800 for transport, but that she would be reimbursed for this expense. It was at this point that the victim realized that she was being scammed.”

Denver police say scams like this are more common than you probably think. “Scammers will spoof off actual dog breeders, using their content to lure in victims. One of the most common themes of these scams is the unforeseen requirement of a special crate to ship the dog or added costs for vaccines, paperwork after already agreeing to purchase it or additional shipping charges.”

According to the Better Business Bureau, reports of puppy scams skyrocketed during the COVID-19 epidemic. The number of reported scams tripled to more than 2,100 beginning in the first few months of last summer.

The Better Business Bureau reports the scams are up because the demand for puppies has grown during the pandemic. The average amount of money lost in a puppy scam also has creeped up, to $700 last year, one of the highest for all categories.

“The biggest increase in online shopping fraud is pet scams, more than triple compared to previous years,” according to the Better Business Bureau website. “Pet scams now comprise 24 percent of online scams reported to BBB Scam Tracker, up from 17 percent in 2019.”

Pet scams are not the most reported crime to BBB Scam Tracker. “Pet scams are not only the riskiest scams, they are also one of the most heart-breaking,” according to the bureau.

It’s a gut punch when someone realizes they’ve not only been scammed, but they also won’t be getting the cute puppy they hoped for. If you want to buy a puppy, the best way is to meet the animal and its breeder in person first, Denver police say.

“This is the scammer's attempt to swindle even more money from their victims,” police said of requirements for special crates. “The most sure-fire way to prevent falling victim to a similar scam is to meet the breeder and the puppy in person.”

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I have been in the news business more than 30 years, spending much of my career at some of the best newspapers in the country. Today, I specialize in Denver local news, health reporting, social justice issues, addiction/recovery/mental health news, and topics surrounding homelessness and human trafficking.

Denver, CO
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