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Florida puppy schemes up 140% amid COVID-19 pandemic

Brevard County woman loses hundreds in online puppy scheme

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – A Florida woman said she lost hundreds after going online to shop for a new pup.

The Better Business Bureau said she is not alone.

BBB officials said they have seen it more often during this pandemic.

Dog person is an understatement for Brevard County native Sherri Morris.

“We love having dogs,” Morris said with her two dogs sitting in her lap.

Morris wanted to expand her furry family, like any pet owner, she turned to the internet looking for the best price.

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“I had purchased a puppy on Craigslist the year before. No problem.”

This time was different.

It started when Morris found two Yorkies for $750, a deal almost too good to be true.

“That is where I started to come into trouble,” Morris said.

Red flag number one.

“The first people I contacted; I was a little leery.”

Red flag number two.

“I contacted him by text. That is the way he wanted to be contacted.”

Red flag number three.

“Then I found out he was in Norfolk, [Virginia]. “And I’m like, ‘Ehh, I’m not so sure about this, because I cannot see them both beforehand.”

Red flag number four.

Yet, despite what her gut was telling her, Morris sent a down payment of $375 to a person she had never met.

News 6 asked her if she considers herself someone who would get scammed.

“No,” Morris said plainly. “I didn’t ask the right questions is what it was.”

After sending the money, Morris got an invoice and tracking number to Dreamline Carriers. Minutes later, someone claiming to work with Dreamline Carriers demanded another $1,998 to ship the pups in a heated crate.

The email was full of misspellings, and Morris said that is when she knew she had been duped.

“I knew to tell the guy, ‘You know, this is a scam. You ought to be ashamed of yourself!’

Morris said the man was insistent.

“He said, ‘I am at the shipping company right now with the dogs,’ and I said, ‘Well then why don’t you take a picture with both dogs in front of the company?’ No. He refused to do that.”

News 6 called the seller in Norfolk whose contact info was provided on the shipping invoice Morris received.

We also called Dreamline Carriers numerous times using the contact info provided on their website. Through emails and voicemails, we asked both the seller and Dreamline Carriers if they were involved in a puppy scam. Neither party got back to us.

When we went to Dreamline’s website, we input the tracking number Morris gave us, and we were able to find her still-pending invoice, but News 6 also found other warning signs like an illegitimate business address.

Through a Google search, News 6 also found language copied verbatim from another shipping website, nearly identical in a layout to Dreamline’s website. That second shipping company also had no real address and did not return our calls or interview requests.

“Be careful because that could be a red flag,” Better Business Bureau of Central Florida spokeswoman Erika Urdaneta said.

Urdaneta has seen puppy scams before, but reports to the BBB are climbing.

“We see the rise now because of what is happening, the pandemic. People are home. They have time to raise a puppy.”

According to the BBB’s scam tracker, 254 Floridians reported a type of puppy scam last year, compared to 103 in 2019. This is an increase of 145 percent.

Morris never saw a cent. Instead, she reported her loss to the FBI and started shopping smart.

“Every time I contacted somebody after that, I knew if it was a scammer,” she told News 6.

Eventually, Morris landed on a little Shih Tzu puppy, one she picked up in person.

“As soon as they put that dog in my arms, I knew it. That was the most loving little dog you have ever seen in your life.”

Tips from the BBB:

  • Purchase a puppy you’ve seen in person because videos and photos could be fake.
  • This pandemic puppy scam is not just limited to online websites. It is also happening through social media posts, so pay attention to those.
  • Beware of a seller pressuring you to purchase quickly because a puppy might soon be out of stock.
  • Beware of a price that seems too good to be true.

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