WASHINGTON — The demand for cute, cuddly puppies remains elevated since the start of the pandemic, and with it, potential scammers looking to take advantage of the unsuspecting.
In late August, Felecia Colbert was on the hunt for a pup -- a friend for her Pomchi, FeeFee, and a new companion for her.
"I want her to be able to teach another dog," Colbert said. "It's always good to have a puppy when you have a dog."
Her search for a new dog began with a conversation with a neighbor whom she said recently purchased a puppy on Facebook Marketplace.
“Facebook?” Colbert questioned. “That’s a scam”
Even with her reservations, she looked through Facebook Marketplace for a dog. Though she didn't find a dog there, she landed on the website www.pupslikenoother.com. The site featured a variety of different puppies from teacup poodles to corgis. It even advertised a promotion: "Buy one puppy today for $499 and get a second for $300."
The price also included "shipping and delivery." It was on the website that Colbert came across Flower, a 12-week-old chihuahua being sold for $700.
Colbert was hesitant initially. She even sent the information to her daughter who gave the website a vote of confidence. Colbert paid the $700 fee and received an email confirming her payment.
"The free shipping coupon is reserved, and the puppy has been placed on hold and marked as sold to you in our system," the confirmation email to Colbert read.
But just two days later, Colbert received another email notifying her of a transport issue and provided two options to resolve the matter. One option would be to pony up another $620 that would later be refunded. Or cancel the transaction altogether and receive a total refund. Colbert, with her gut feeling intensifying, wanted out of the deal and her money returned.
“I thought I could catch stuff like that," Colbert said. "You're not going to get me. I've never been taken like this before."
Weeks went by and still no refund. WUSA9 tried contacting the company. We corresponded with a sales agent named Eva on the company’s website. We informed the agent we were a news agency investigating allegations of consumer fraud. But minutes later, the chat function on the site quickly vanished. And days later, WUSA9 learned the website was no longer available either.
Emails were also sent to the same email address that contact Colbert about the transportation issues with her pup but got no response.
“I feel violated,” Colbert said. “I really thought… they looked authentic.”
The American Kennel Club told WUSA9 they are well-aware of Pups like No Other.
“We have reports of people being scammed by them before,” said Brandi Hunter Munden, vice president of public relations and communications for the American Kennel Club.
Hunter added that while puppy scams took off during the pandemic, reports have declined slightly but many people are still being taken advantage of.
“If you don't register your litters and dogs with the AKC, we don't have recourse. We're not the USDA," Munden said. "We're a governing body for the dog sport. But we're also a private registry. We don't have law enforcement capability. If we see a bad breeder and we know something is happening, we can alert law enforcement in that area and make a report. But that's as far as it goes.”
The American Kennel Club (AKC) recommends watching out for red flags when trying to purchase a puppy from a breeder like no phone calls, copycat or stock photos, sketchy payment, or a price that's too good to be true. They also suggest purchasing pups from its marketplace. Breeders on their website are registered and inspected by the organization. And if something goes wrong, there's protection.
As for Colbert, she's taking a moment to regroup. But she does plan on getting another pup soon. But for those in the market for a furry addition to the family, she has one last piece of advice: watch your back.
Godiva has been reunited with another one of her pups after her litter was stolen and she was found abandoned and tied to a pole, the HRA says. CREDIT: HRA