7Investigates: Online dog adoption issues

(WHDH) — Rose Morrill has a 9 week old puppy, Buster, who keeps her on her toes. She decided to get a dog after losing one of her daughters, Michelle.

“She loved dogs, oh she loved dogs,” says Rose.

Michelle had multiple sclerosis.

“I mean, I miss her so much. I do. I was her caretaker,” says Rose. “I got the dog, he keeps me busy.”

Before Buster, Rose had her eye on another pug named Weston. It wasn’t meant to be.

“I got so caught up in it. You know I got so excited and I wasn’t thinking and I just felt so stupid afterwards,” says Rose.

Rose found Weston on a website while browsing online.

“This one just kind of popped up. I started looking and it said 700 dollars for a pug, I could afford that, I could get that,” says Rose.

She immediately began emailing the owner.

“The words they used, the way they talked, what they said. They really cared about the dogs,” says Rose.

Rose used a cash sharing app to send $700 to the man’s account.  When she didn’t hear back from him, her family got involved.

“One of my younger sons called the guy and asked him to give the money back. He refused to give the money back, said I don’t know what you are talking about,” says Rose’s daughter Cindy Langlois.

Rose never got the dog.

“I just feel so, I was heartbroken, I was heartbroken. I was so sad,” says Rose.

HOW TO SNIFF OUT POTENTIAL FALSE ADVERTISING:

7Investigates went to the website where Rose found Weston. We took his picture and did a reverse Google Image Search. Here’s a tutorial on how we did that: https://bit.ly/2O17Cl8. (Note: There are also related videos on Youtube on how to Google Image search from your PC, Mac or on your phone).

When 7Investigates did the Google Image Search, Weston’s picture and other pictures that appeared to be of Weston, popped up on different sites, with different prices and different sellers.

“Scammers know that buying a dog is an emotional decision. They know this,” says Brandi Hunter,  VP of Public Relations and Communications for American Kennel Club

She says besides doing a reverse Google Image search, there are many ways to protect yourself.

“Look at the language on the website. are things spelled properly, do the logos look cut and pasted,” says Hunter. “If they won’t show you additional pictures of the puppy, don’t want to video chat, only want to conduct visits through email or text, never want to go on the phone. Flags flags flags.”

Hunter also says, be cautious of the payment method.

“Do not use gift cards. If they’re requesting payment in gift cards, huge red flag,” says Hunter.

Although they are popular, Hunter says cash sharing apps are about the same as wiring money.

“Don’t do it. Use a credit card if at all possible because then you can dispute the charges if fraud comes up,” says Hunter.

She also says the American Kennel Club doesn’t register breeder, they register the dogs themselves. “So an AKC registered breeder is not a thing,” says Hunter.

She says you can call the American Kennel Club if you ever have questions.

REPORT THE PROBLEM:

We sent the cash sharing app, the seller’s account and contact information after Rose says she spoke to another victim in Texas. Rose and her daughter did as well, something you should do if you become a victim.

The app company says it’s conducting an investigation, and as part of that investigation, they’ve imposed restrictions on the seller account, so it doesn’t happen again.

“Oh I was so devastated. I was angry, I was hurt,” says Rose. “Like I said, it was like another loss in my life.”

The cash sharing app also tells 7Investigates they are developing new software to remove scammers from the app, and enhance their ability to detect them.

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