WYOMING, Mich. — The Better Business Bureau is sounding the alarm about a new angle on the classic "puppy scam," with people typically overseas posing as legitimate animal transport companies that are based in West Michigan.
The BBB has warned the public before about companies that scam people out of money after turning to the internet to find a new pet.
“Puppy scams really are some of the hardest scams we see from an emotional standpoint," said Troy Baker, communications director for the BBB's West Michigan office.
Typically when the BBB puts out alerts about "puppy scams," they are referring to the websites offering animals for sale. Somebody will inquire with the site about purchasing a dog, and they will be asked for a deposit.
At some point in the process, the victim will be put in touch with a second "company," this one typically billed as the organization that will handle shipping the animal. But the BBB says this second website is really just a creation of the original scammer.
“So what they end up doing is they make the shipping companies, these websites, for companies that don't really exist, to convince you that it's a legitimate organization,” Baker said.
One of these phony transport companies, Glorious Pet Transportation Company, has recently come to the attention of the BBB's West Michigan office, as they have a physical address listed on their website indicating the company is based in Wyoming, Michigan.
Their website claims the company is based out of a building on Michael Avenue, but the building is very clearly a residential apartment complex, and not a functioning transport company.
“It's an apartment complex right around the corner from the Wyoming Police Department. So it's kind of an odd location for a shipping company that's going to be receiving and transporting dogs and other goods,” Baker said.
FOX 17 spoke to several neighbors in the building Wednesday morning, all of them telling us they had never seen any sort of operation in or around their building.
In addition to using real addresses, the phony websites often include working customer service phone numbers. FOX 17 called the number listed on the site; a man who said his name is William Bradford answered the phone.
Mr. Bradford denied the company was fraudulent but couldn't explain why their address appeared to be located within an apartment complex.
“All I have to tell you is this is a legit company, and we are located in Wyoming. If you wanted to use our services, feel free. I assure you will be satisfied at the end of the day,” the man said.
Despite their denials, Baker says the company is not providing a legitimate service to customers.
“They put those U.S. addresses, that could be here in West Michigan, and could be anywhere else, in there just to convince people that they're U.S.-based or Michigan-based, when in reality... they know if they told people they were based overseas, you wouldn't trust them,” Baker said.
The Better Business Bureau always recommends going with a local company when looking to add a 4-legged member of the family.
“Start with the local animal shelter, start with a local breeder, verify the animal is real and the companies you're using are real. And that becomes so much easier if you're in a position where you can actually visit them,” Baker said.
“We often hear from victims that say they're more hurt and devastated by not getting the dog than they are from the money they lost.”