TULSA, Okla. — As Valentine's Day approaches, many are looking for a cute, cuddly puppy to give their someone special, but buyers should beware of scammers online.
Scammers are preying on the heartstrings of consumers, promising them a furry companion only to leave them with heartache and empty wallets.
Two victims reached out to the Problem Solvers hoping their experiences will help keep others from becoming a victim too.
“It was truly heartbreaking,” Gary and Karol Faules said. “You know… my biggest heartbreak was that we didn't have a new best friend for our little girl.”
The Faules family is talking about their sweet pup of four years.
“We wanted a playmate for her to spend time with and another family member, so we began looking around, and we have a friend with an English miniature bull terrier,” Gary said.
The couple searched the internet.
“Karol found a particular site online that looked pretty good and had some nice choices,” Gary said.
The couple resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico and said the breeder claimed to be in Tulsa. They said they called the breeder asking if they could come check out the dogs, but that came with a catch.
“He said I would need a 50 percent deposit,” Gary said.
The Faules paid $400 for the pup through the mobile banking app Zelle and drove 10 hours to Tulsa. Once they arrived, they tried contacting the alleged breeder, who they said either ignored their texts, or hung up the phone.
That's when the couple realized something was off.
“I went ahead, and we drove to the address he had given us,” Gary said. “I went to the front door, and I met the owner of the house and she said, ‘Let me guess, you're here to ask about Akita pups.’”
The homeowner told the Faules she's had numerous people from across the country come to her house for the same thing. The scammer was apparently using a South Tulsa home address to con potential dog owners into believing their purchase is for real.
“He was very smooth,” Gary said. “I consider myself a very good judge of character and really saw no red flags."
The Faules said another website used by the apparent fraudster is bullterrierpupsforsale.com, which has since been suspended.
The Faules story is sadly only one of many reported across Green Country lately.
"I found a site that offered dachshunds pups, AKC registered supposedly for $700,” Maria Dyer said.
She lives in Kansas and thought she'd found a great deal on Rorysdaschundpups.com in Tulsa, another website no longer active.
She said she began speaking with someone from the website and all seemed OK.
“They asked me if I could come get the dog this weekend, and I said I’d try to arrange it,” Maria said. “I realized I didn't have the name of anybody.”
Maria said she didn't have a location either and that tipped her off that this was possibly a scam.
“I wasn't going to give them any credit card information over the phone,” Maria said. “I was going to give them cash or a money order when I went to meet them."
Her meeting never took place. She said she would not give money until meeting the pet in person — a good practice according to the Better Business Bureau of Tulsa.
"There’s all kinds of different pet scams out there,” Bryce Marshall with the Tulsa BBB said.
He said there are red flags to watch out for when purchasing a puppy or any pet online, such as photos of the pets.
Do they show up on multiple sites? Are they grainy or blurry?
Does the website use poor grammar or give incomplete answers about the pet you want?
“They should have a lot of information they can give you,” Marshall said.
The BBB said to never pay with apps that are essentially just a cash transfer. Consumers should use a credit card instead so they can dispute the charge if needed.
“If they say we need you to go through Zelle, Cash App, or some sort of prepaid debit or gift card, this is the biggest red flag and you should not go through with it,” Marshall said.
2 News Oklahoma investigators attempted to contact the alleged scammers, but the sites and numbers associated with the potential puppy sales were no longer active.
See this full story THURSDAY at 6 a.m. on 2 News Oklahoma Today.
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