ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) — The demand for puppies and other pets is high during the holidays and causing more people to fall for online pet scams. The Better Business Bureau Serving Metro Atlanta, Athens & Northeast Georgia has a few tips to make sure scammers don’t steal your holiday spirit and your hard-earned dollars.

Roswell resident Wendy Segnitz says losing her pet was like losing a family member. “In September, I had lost my dear, sweet Glory girl, which was a West Island Terrier, due to cancer, and I was just devastated,” Segnitz said. She searched online for a new pup for Christmas and came across a “Kern’s Westies” website. She saw the red flags when she finally reached someone. “She said these puppies were 10 to 11 weeks, and then four weeks later, they were still 10 to 11 weeks,” said Segnitz. The person said a select pup was located just a few hours away. “The price of the puppy was $800, which I thought was quite low,” Segnitz said.

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The person asked for a total of $950, which included a $150 delivery fee, through Zelle to deliver the pet. However, Segnitz had discovered the scammers were using a fake website impersonating a credible business. “I said, ‘Let me have your address, and I’ll come over there, and we’ll get everything taken care of, like, no deposit, I’ll just pay for the puppy in total.’ Never heard back,” she said.

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She avoided the rip off and reported it to the BBB. The BBB recently released data showing about 35% of online shopping scams over the last year are pet scams, with victims losing thousands of dollars. The BBB recommends seeing the pet in person before you buy it and researching the breed for fair prices. “You have to do your own research, and if something doesn’t seem right, most likely, it’s not,” said Segnitz.

Here are a few additional BBB tips:

  • Conduct a reverse image search of the photo of the pet and search for a distinctive phrase in the description.
  • Check out a local animal shelter for pets to meet in person before adopting.
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Who to contact if you are the victim of a pet scam:

  • Petscams.com – petscams.com/report-pet-scam-websites tracks complaints, catalogs puppy scammers and endeavors to get fraudulent pet sales websites taken down.
  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – reportfraud.ftc.gov to file a complaint online or call 877-FTC-Help.
  • Better Business Bureau – BBB Scam Tracker to report a scam online.
  • Your credit card issuer – report the incident if you shared your credit card number, even if the transaction was not completed.