Richard of Raton (he didn’t want his last name used) was the target, and he says the experience left him brokenhearted.
His beloved pug died recently, and he thought the best way to cope was to get another of the same breed and color – black, which is an unusual color for pugs.
“I had only him in my life,” Richard said in a phone interview. “I was so devastated that the only way to get over it was to get another pug.”
So he did what many of us would do: launch an online search. In Richard’s case, he went to Craigslist and found an authentic-looking site for a breeder in Maryland, who offered to send the puppy if Richard wired the $550 sales price via Western Union.
He did that and paid a $24 service charge to Western Union.
Next, the so-called breeder told him to contact a particular shipping company, which said it could transport the pup with a special crate. However, the Raton man would have to pay $25 for rental, plus a $575 damage deposit.
Richard, who says he previously worked in the shipping business, did some research and concluded the shipper was trying to scam him. Which, of course, raised questions about the breeder.
When confronted, the bogus breeder threatened Richard with charges of animal abandonment if he didn’t pay that particular shipper to transport the dog. Regarding the scam accusation, the “breeder” added, “I’m a Christian man. I wouldn’t do such a thing.”
Richard never heard from the breeder or the shipper again. He was out the $550 for the dog, plus the Western Union fee, but he knew enough not to send any money to the shipper.
The worst part, he says, was how the scammers took advantage of him during a time when he was vulnerable. He reported the crime to police and Western Union and wanted to tell his story publicly to save anyone else the same heartache.
“I don’t want any person to experience the heartache I’ve experienced,” he said. “This is not about buying a car. It involves a life.”
When he did a little investigating, he found three other Craigslist ads for black pugs. In each instance, he asked for the breeder’s address so he could meet the puppy and pick it up himself. In each instance, he never heard from the breeder again.
There is a happy ending, though. Richard got himself a pug puppy – not a black one – from an El Paso woman who agreed to bring the puppy and meet him in Albuquerque. Richard got to meet the now-named Odie before purchasing him and making him his newest companion.
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Sadly, this story is not unusual when it comes to buying pets online. The Better Business Bureau quotes experts as saying 80 percent of sponsored online advertisements about pets might be fake. Here are some tips:
• Don’t buy a pet without seeing it in person. Do an internet search of the picture of the pet you are considering. If the same picture appears on multiple websites, you may be dealing with a fraud.
• Never pay a stranger with a money order or through Western Union or Moneygram.
• Always use a credit card in case you need to dispute the charges.
Contact Ellen Marks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-823-3842 if you are aware of what sounds like a scam. To report a scam to law enforcement, contact the New Mexico Consumer Protection Division toll-free at 1-844-255-9210.