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Cute puppy photos lead to not-so-cute scam

A fraudulent dog breeder who has been using an Albuquerque address has been ripping off local residents by pretending to sell puppies over Facebook, according to the Better Business Bureau.

The male breeder charges hundreds of dollars in upfront costs for shipping, shots and pet insurance, and asks customers to pay in the form of gift cards, says the regional BBB, which covers New Mexico and southwest Colorado.

The BBB cites the example of an Albuquerque woman who complied with the gift-card payment request to purchase a corgi. The seller then asked for more money for a dog crate and shipping, but the woman said she couldn’t afford the additional expense and would pick up the dog herself.

The man gave her the address of a supposed shipping company in Albuquerque, but the BBB says it has not been able to verify the address as a shipping company. Also, the woman never got her dog.

She’s not alone.

A BBB study published last year says that 80 percent of the sponsored advertising links that appear in an internet search for pets may be fraudulent. Most victims lose anywhere between $100 and $1,000, and the most fraudulent breeds offered are French bulldogs and Yorkshire terriers, the study says.


• The best way to avoid fraud is to see the pet and meet the prospective seller in person before purchasing. “Most legitimate breeders will welcome the visit,” the BBB says.

• Make a copy of the online photo of the pet and do a web search to see if the image turns up on other sites. If you see it on multiple websites, you might be dealing with fraud. The same is true for duplicate ad text and testimonials. (To search an image on Google Chrome, place the cursor over the photo and right click to enable an internet search. The website also searches photos, and Google has an image search function at Google images.)

• Never pay a stranger with a money order or through Western Union, Moneygram or gift cards. Always use a credit card in case you need to dispute the charges.

• Research prices for particular breeds. “If someone is advertising a purebred dog for free or at a deeply discounted price, you could be dealing with a fraudulent offer,” the BBB says.

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If you’re an Instagram user, beware of a new con in which phony companies are trying to hook people into posting product photos in exchange for a commission or free products.

The scammers contact people through their account or blog and make the pitch using the term “brand ambassador,” the BBB says.

But those who fall for it and agree to post photos of themselves with the particular product, must first buy the items, anything from sunglassses to jewelry to cosmetics. The items cost at least $50 and arrive broken. In some versions, the upfront payment is supposed to cover the victim’s background check.

In any case, the promise of a commission or other freebies never materializes, and the Instagram users are out the money, the BBB says.

A few tips about job scams:

• Approach with great skepticism any job that asks you to hand over money. “Scammers will often use the guise of running a credit check, setting up direct deposit or paying for training,” the BBB says.

• If an offer looks suspicious, search for it in Google. If something is a scam, victims are likely to have posted something about it online.

Ellen Marks is assistant business editor at the Albuquerque Journal. To report a scam to law enforcement, contact the New Mexico Consumer Protection Division toll-free at 1-844-255-9210.