KALAMAZOO, Mich. — If you're looking at adding a furry friend to your family, beware of buying online.
For 2021, puppy scams continue to be one of the most reported scams.
"I think that the folks that got me really took advantage of that emotional piece for me," said Amy Richards who was scammed out of thousands of dollars.
Pictures and videos were all it took for Amy Richards to fall in love with a french bulldog.
"I was looking mostly locally in Kalamazoo, and I had come across Hoobly," said Richards.
That credible website is a platform breeders use to sell puppies.
Richards looked through the listings and found a post for french bulldog puppies in Kalamazoo.
"I texted that I was interested, didn't hear back for a couple days, and then got a text from the person that said, you know, I don't have any puppies left, but please email my son-in-law, he has two pups left in the litter," said Richards.
Richards said she crafted a long email to the "son-in-law" about her interest in one of the puppies and her qualifications.
The man responded right away with pictures, videos, and information on the pup.
"I was like, ‘Yes, I'm very interested. When can I come see the dog?’ That's when he was like, oh, I'm actually I'm not in Michigan, I'm in Southern California," said Richards.
The man offered Richards shipping, something she didn't really know much about.
She said she asked questions and did her homework and everything he was telling her checked out.
"Transferred initial deposit and funds to him. You know, he said, part of that is a deposit when the dog is delivered, you will receive that money returned to you," said Richards.
PUPPY SCAM: A #Kalamazoo woman is out of thousands of dollars after a breeder told her he would send her this french bulldog.— Lauren Kummer (@LaurenKummerTV) November 3, 2021
She sent the initial payment & then was asked to send more for shipping costs, a special crate & pet insurance. @FOX17 pic.twitter.com/5WH07cp3Y7
On top of the initial deposit, there were shipping and handling fees, a weight problem with the crate, and pet insurance.
"At one point, they even Venmoed me back $500 in good faith to say, you know, we're trying to really make this happen, and we're sorry about the trouble we're having," said Richards.
By the third problem that arose, Richards said she started looking more into it.
The address for the shipping company led her to a home on the east side of the state, and the pet insurance company told her they didn't issue insurance the way she had been told. That's how she figured out she got scammed.
"I lost probably a little over $4,000 by the time it was all said and done.," said Richards.
Richards cut off contact, reported him to the police, and contacted the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of West Michigan.
The BBB told Fox 17 News they receive hundreds of reports of puppy scams each year. It remains one of the most common in Michigan.
Their biggest advice is to always see the dog in person.
"Just like the shelters, any good breeder is always going to want you to meet that animal first in-person to make sure that you're a good fit for that animal as well, vice versa, make sure that animals a good fit for you," said Better Business Bureau of West Michigan's Communication Specialist Katie Grevious.
The BBB said on average people lose around $4,000 to $5,000 in puppy scams, sometimes even upwards of $10,000.
"I wrote down all the information I had with emails and text messages and phone numbers, and I'm really just trying to be proactive to help keep this from happening to someone else," said Richards.
If you have been scammed or think you're getting scammed, the BBB is asking folks to report it through their scam tracker on their website as well as through the FTC.