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Ohio woman loses hundreds in puppy scam, issues holiday pet purchase warning

By Joe Pagonakis

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    CLEVELAND, Ohio (WEWS) — Autumn Carney of West Salem, Ohio, learned a tough lesson when it comes to buying a puppy sight unseen while shopping online. The pictures posted on the internet of an English Bulldog she and her family purchased from a breeder, supposedly located in Fredricksburg, Virginia, quickly turned into nothing but a mirage.

Carney said when she initially wired $600 to the breeder via Western Union, everything seemed just fine, but she said it wasn’t long before she found herself facing hundreds of dollars in hidden costs.

“I was trying to get an English bull dog for my husband for his birthday because he had wanted one,” Carney said. “She sent me pictures, she sent me videos, told me it was going to be $500, that she could ship the dog for an extra $100.”

“I was trying to get an English bull dog for my husband for his birthday because he had wanted one,” Carney said. “She sent me pictures, she sent me videos, told me it was going to be $500, that she could ship the dog for an extra $100.”

But Carney told News 5 the deal quickly fell apart, and it had her contacting the Fredricksburg police and the FBI, and soon she’ll file a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General.

“I got an email approximately four hours later that I had to pay for a special crate for this animal and it was going to cost me another $900 for this crate,” Carney said. “She made it sound really good, I mean she was so good that I believed it, and it was heartbreaking.”

Carney and her family never received the English Bulldog, and so far, they have never been given a refund.

Sue McConnell, President of the Cleveland Better Business Bureau, told News 5 that consumers should never purchase a holiday pet online, sight unseen, and should instead buy from local breeders who can first show them the puppy before they buy.

“Some of these consumers lose hundreds and hundreds of dollars because they pay the initial fee and then they’re told they have to pay another fee,” McConnell said. “These breeds are several thousands of dollars and if someone is going to sell you one for $500, that’s a big red flag.”

McConnell said never send money via Western Union and Moneygram to people or companies you don’t know and trust. Once the money is wired, it is gone for good. The same goes for prepaid debit cards or gift cards. Always use a credit card in case you need to dispute the charges. If anyone asks you to pay for anything with a gift card, you may be dealing with fraud.

McConnell told News 5 the puppy pictures on a pet website can easily be fake.

“But it’s so easy for a scammer to steal photos from another website, or buy stock photos and claim that these are real puppies,” McConnell said.

Sharon Harvey, President of the Cleveland Animal Protective League, also urged consumers not to buy pets online.

“The disappointment that these families are going to feel and the money they’re out, but also the distrust it creates in real adoptions and getting involved with adopting an animal,” Harvey said. “You need to meet that pet in person, you should avoid online purchases of puppies, kittens, dogs, cats.”

Harvey said Northeast Ohio families should consider adopting a pet this holiday season, and if you’re giving a pet as a gift, make sure the recipient of that gift is aware before adoption.

“You should not give a pet to somebody as a surprise gift if you have no idea if they’re prepared for a pet, or whether or not they really want a pet,” Harvey said. “I really encourage people to consider an animal who really needs that second chance, this is that giving time of year, what a gift you’d be giving to a deserving animal.”

Information on Cleveland APL adoption can be found on the APL webpage.

Meanwhile, Autumn Carney has a final warning.

“It’s embarrassing; your family gets heartbroken when you don’t get the animal that you were so hoping to have, Carney said. “After losing $600 and learning that lesson, now if I find an animal online, I want to meet somewhere, I want to see the dog, I want to touch the dog.”

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