HENDERSON, N.C. -- A North Carolina grandma lost more than $5,000 trying to get a new puppy for her grandson.
Katherine Smith, of Henderson, said she was lured into this scam after seeing a post on Facebook advertising purebred Yorkshire Terriers for sale. She wanted to get one for her grandson whom she was raising after he lost his mom.
"This was going to be for him, for him to have something to hang on to," Smith recalled.
Smith reached out to the seller on Facebook Messenger and the seller claimed the Yorkie was registered with the American Kennel Club.
To get the puppy, the seller instructed Smith she had to buy $525 worth of gift cards.
"I had to take a picture of the front and the back of the card and the receipts, and then I sent them to her," Smith said. After paying that money, the seller told Smith she would need to pay even more for a checkup, vaccinations and other items for the puppy. "They told me I needed to purchase a $500 crate to put her in to ship her and then after I sent that, then, of course, they come back and say we need $1,200 for insurance to cover her."
In total, Smith sent $5,000 worth of gift cards to the seller and shipping company. She finally got an email and text message containing a live tracking map of when the puppy would arrive.
But the puppy never arrived.
Instead, the seller just wanted more money, and that's when Smith realized she'd been scammed.
"I can't believe that I fell victim to that. That was my whole savings. That was everything I had," Smith told Troubleshooter Diane Wilson.
Smith is not alone. In 2022, according to the Better Business Bureau, consumers lost more than $1 million to pet scams. The agency estimates more than 80% of the sponsored links for pet sales on social media may be fake.
Smith has filed a police report and reported the fraud to the FTC. She said she is sharing her story to help others avoid not only the financial but the emotional heartbreak.
"Don't do this unless you can go and see it beforehand. I trusted this lady; she kept sending me messages that she was a Christian and that she would not do this to my little grandson. She wanted to see him happy and she couldn't wait for me to send her pictures of when they actually delivered the puppy."
To avoid being scammed don't get lured in with cute pictures of pets. Scammers often steal those pictures from legitimate breeder websites. Also if the price for the puppy starts too good to be true, that is another sign it's a scam. Anytime someone asks you to buy gift cards and take pictures of the numbers on the back and send them to them, it's a scam. Once you do that the money is drained from the gift cards.
Also, remember animal shelters are filled with pets looking for a good home, you can also adopt.