Puppy scams thrive amid coronavirus pandemic as Americans seek company: Illegal Tender podcast

Laveta Brigham

This is part 1 of Yahoo Finance’s Illegal Tender podcast Season 6 ‘The Puppy Crimes of Quarantine’. Listen to the series here.  In the early days and weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans acted on equal parts fear and necessity converting their homes into offices, gyms, and schools. Those who were […]

This is part 1 of Yahoo Finance’s Illegal Tender podcast Season 6 ‘The Puppy Crimes of Quarantine’. Listen to the series here. 

In the early days and weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans acted on equal parts fear and necessity converting their homes into offices, gyms, and schools.

Those who were healthy found themselves restless and in search of a distraction. People painted rooms different colors and baked banana bread, and some saw an opportune time to get a puppy. 

Would-be dog parents took to the internet in droves searching for new dogs to adopt. Pandemic puppies were such hot commodities that reports of possible shortages of adoptable dogs first made headlines in late March.

Online dog scammers, which typically work during the winter holidays, came out in full force to exploit the pandemic. With stolen images or stock photos, they create online profiles of dogs, communicate with potential adopters, and broker deals. 

This is part 1 of Yahoo Finance’s Illegal Tender podcast Season 6 ‘The Puppy Crimes of Quarantine’. Listen to the series here. 

Conveniently citing “social distancing” as an excuse, alleged breeders denied requests to meet the dog in advance and notoriously upsell people on premiums like climate-controlled travel crates to ensure the dog’s travel is more humane and comfortable. Money is only accepted via wire transfer, untraceable digital payments like Venmo or PayPal, or in prepaid gift cards.

Hopeful dog owners realize, usually once it’s too late, that there is no dog and someone has stolen their money. 

In Illegal Tender, season six, we explore the insidious and nefarious world of online puppy scams and chat with two victims of scams and an industry watchdog who points out the red flags.

This is part 1 of Yahoo Finance’s Illegal Tender podcast Season 6 ‘The Puppy Crimes of Quarantine’. Listen to the series here. 

Stephanie Asymkos: Amid the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans acted on equal parts fear and necessity in converting our homes into offices, gyms, and schools. Hoarders decimated stocks of toilet paper and hand sanitizer from just about every store coast to coast. Months worth of prescription drugs were frantically filled and no one was shy about stocking up on canned goods because grocery shopping felt like tempting fate. 

Those uncertain first days and weeks of the pandemic left Americans desperate for good news and a distraction. For those who were healthy, the downtime was ripe for home improvement projects, and baking banana bread. But, some families and individuals thought the mandates brought on by the pandemic were an opportune time to get a puppy.

From Yahoo Finance, this is Illegal Tender season six. I’m Stephanie Asymkos, and I’m a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve closely followed trends on what people are buying and what they’re doing with their stimulus checks, and how people are spending their time during this unprecedented moment in history. I’m also no stranger to reporting on scams. It was only in February that I hosted season four of Illegal Tender and took a hard look at multi-level marketing companies, but that feels like it was eons ago. 

Another scam has come into my world and it’s one that will break the hearts of animal lovers. The decision to bring home a new puppy during pandemic lockdown isn’t flawed logic. A new puppy is a major distraction. It’s a milestone moment that’s cause for celebration. It gets the whole family involved, and overnight stay-at-home and shelter in place orders grounded us. All of the excuses people made to not get a dog suddenly faded. People stopped traveling and working long hours at businesses and owners could now devote their undivided attention to acclimating their new dogs to their new surroundings, housebreaking, and obedience training.

A vet and a Yorkshire Terrier dog named Agusha at a vet clinic of the Aibolit Plus veterinary chain. (Photo: Mikhail TereshchenkoTASS via Getty Images)

This is part 1 of Yahoo Finance’s Illegal Tender podcast Season 6 ‘The Puppy Crimes of Quarantine’. Listen to the series here. 

And let it be said that dogs are exceptional at soothing afraid nerves, maintaining sanity, and boosting moods, all things a lot of us could use right now. Pets can also decrease feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness. So, who’s to say if people acted on impulse or not, but hopeful dog parents took to the internet in search of new fur babies. Google Trends reveals that the search term, puppy, spiked during the last week in March and interest has roughly stayed the same ever since. 

Pandemic puppies were such hot commodities that reports of possible shortages of adoptable dogs first made headlines in March in outlets like the Wall Street Journal, Huff Post, Bloomberg, and The Los Angeles Times.

People fell in love with pictures of floppy-eared fluff balls with puppy dog eyes, deals were brokered, contracts were signed, money was sent, and for some, a wild goose chase ensued because the alleged breeder was bogus. 

Many have encountered scammers mainly through Facebook, who advertise for dogs using stock or stolen images. They build up the hopes of people looking to buy a dog, but always deny their request to meet the dog in advance, conveniently citing social distancing as an excuse. 

But the ruse doesn’t stop there. These alleged breeders upsell would-be dog owners on services because it’s widely known that nothing stands in between a pet owner and their pet, so premiums are spent on things like climate-controlled dog crates, travel insurance, and canine COVID-19 vaccines, that’s not a thing, by the way, all to make the supposed dog’s travel more humane and comfortable. They request money via wire transfer, untraceable digital payments like Venmo or PayPal, or prepaid gift card, all for a dog that doesn’t exist. 

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This is part 1 of Yahoo Finance’s Illegal Tender podcast Season 6 ‘The Puppy Crimes of Quarantine’. Listen to the series here. 

Stories from the heartbroken and conned are rampant. The Better Business Bureau issued a warning in May alerting consumers that puppy scams are spiking, with more reports about bogus pet websites in April than the first three months of the year combined. In 2017, the organization an in-depth investigation and concluded that at the time, at least 80% of the sponsored advertising links in internet searches for pets may be fraudulent. There’s no telling what that number is right now, and sadly, puppy scams aren’t new. They perennially pop up during the winter holidays and Valentine’s Day, but scammers are now exploiting the pandemic to bilk people out of thousands of dollars.

On the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker, over 1,200 puppy scams have been reported for March to late June, which is the time of this reporting. The majority site the scam was an online purchase, and they lost anywhere between a couple hundred to several thousand dollars. Two of the user reported scams say they were conned out of $60,000 and $34,000, but there’s strong evidence to support that those 1,200 reported scams don’t begin to scratch the surface of this insidious and nefarious world. I mean, think about it, it takes a lot of courage to step forward and say that you’ve been conned.

For many, the humiliation and defeat prevent them from embarking down an unknown path of advocacy and the red tape that comes with trying to recoup money that was essentially sent into the ether, but not everyone stays silent. This season you’re going to hear from victims of these puppy scams. You’ll meet two women, Eleanor and Suzanne Smith. 

Eleanor lives in England. She’s a 20-something student who is studying biomedical research. Her search for a chocolate Labrador started in June. Eleanor’s a dog lover, but it’s been over two decades since her family has owned a dog. Her father tested positive and beat COVID-19 and this dog would join their family at a really positive time.

Suzanne’s a retiree who lives in sunny Southern California with her husband. She’s a proud grandmother who recently became a great-grandmother. Suzanne’s been a dog owner for years and recently lost a beloved Yorkie pup. During the pandemic, she started her search for a new four-legged companion. Both women followed leads from targeted Facebook ads. Between the two of them, nearly $10,000 was lost and some of it was never recovered.

Harley, a three-year-old Pug puppy, wears protective equipment to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, in Mexico City, on May 13, 2020. (Photo by CLAUDIO CRUZ / AFP)

This is part 1 of Yahoo Finance’s Illegal Tender podcast Season 6 ‘The Puppy Crimes of Quarantine’. Listen to the series here. 

You’ll also hear from Josh Kreinberg. Josh is the chief administrative officer and general counsel at PuppySpot. Think of PuppySpot as a full-service puppy concierge. Its network consists of vetted breeders and matches puppies with forever homes.

PuppySpot is also, terrible pun warning, a watchdog for internet puppy scams, and works with Washington lawmakers to fight online pet scams. In our conversation, you’ll learn to spot the red flags of phony puppy scams. 

But first, let’s connect with Suzanne and hear her convoluted account of an alleged dog breeder who basically held her dog hostage because his friend’s car broke down in Arizona and wanted Suzanne to pay for the auto repair. Here she is recounting how she lost close to five figures and her husband almost drove from Southern California to Denver to pick up a poodle that never existed.

Suzanne Smith: My name is Suzanne Smith, and I currently and have for the last many, many years lived in Southern California. I am 72 years old and have one new great-grandchild.

SA: Walk me through why it is that we’re talking today. What happened with this puppy?

SS: Well, it started … we’ve had, for many years now … we had two Yorkshire terriers, miniature Yorkshire terriers, so we like the little cuddly dogs, and in April we had to have our second one put down and I was just devastated and so for about a month after the emotional crisis, I started thinking about looking into getting another small dog, but maybe trying a different breed, and when I was looking through the internet, I found pictures of miniature and toy poodles. Well, the toy poodles are very, very small and so I fell in love with that idea and I found a website and I looked at the pictures and there was a place for me to inquire. And so, I asked if the puppy was still available and the person who answered me wanted me to chat on something called … oh my gosh. It was something … what …

SA: WhatsApp?

A medical worker from Lenox Hill Hospital gets a kiss from a puppy while people show gratitude as part of the nightly #ClapBecauseWeCare during the coronavirus pandemic on May 11, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

This is part 1 of Yahoo Finance’s Illegal Tender podcast Season 6 ‘The Puppy Crimes of Quarantine’. Listen to the series here. 

SS: WhatsApp, yes. I knew it had ‘what’ in it. And, I thought, well, I didn’t even have that on my phone, so I had to go to the App Store and get it loaded onto my phone and I thought, well, maybe this is something they do, I don’t know? I had never dealt with anything like this before. 

So, we texted back and forth, but then also he could call me from that app. And so, I had a phone number coming from WhatsApp and his name … I don’t know why I couldn’t give the name he used. This might not even be his real name, his name was Harry Jason, and supposedly he lived in Denver, Colorado.

Now, after I started looking for the puppy elsewhere, I didn’t see anything that I liked better than this one particular puppy that he showed me, so I questioned … it was only $884. Now, that should have been a red flag for me right there. If I would’ve been thinking about the cost of specially bred puppies and AKC puppies, I would’ve known that this was awfully cheap, and so-

SA: What did that $884 … did that include transport from Denver to Southern California?

SS: Actually, it was … maybe it was … my husband told me last night and now I can’t remember. I think this was including transport, it would be flying. Then, if you added it up, the cost of flying a little puppy out to Southern California from Denver, Colorado and the cost of the puppy, $884 just would not cover … he wouldn’t make anything, and we figured it out after the fact. So, once I sent him, through PayPal, $884.99 then I get a text from him at the airport that they needed $1,980 for in-flight insurance to let her fly from Denver to California and then he told me it didn’t come through on his PayPal account. 

Well, I had never used it before in that manner. It’s used by email addresses. You send it to this particular email address. He says, “Try sending it to this email address,” and gave me a second one. Well, what I was doing without knowing it is I was paying him two times this $1,980 and it was going and it went through when I checked to see my account, I didn’t know how to do it, this was later on, I saw they both did get sent. And so, I’m arguing at the end about the fact that I’m seeing it’s sent, he says, “I want to see a picture. Take a picture of it and send it to me.” He was demanding and he was bossing me like I was an idiot, which I really was about this particular subject, or I wouldn’t have gotten into the mess.

A dog wearing a mask for avoid spreading the coronavirus in a house in Buenos Ares, Argentina on April 29, 2020 during the Animal Day. (Photo by Mario De Fina/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

I’m just saying, I wasn’t familiar with that and my husband wasn’t home at the time to … because he’s very business-minded and he questions things more than I do. I’m too trusting, that’s my own problem. Well, at the right moment there are times when you should have some sense of doubt, this doesn’t ring a bell here. I’ve never seen anything like this before, so I didn’t have anything to compare it with.

And all in all, we probably put down about $5,000 and then my husband was going to go pick the puppy up. A friend of his was going to ride with him and they were going to go pick the puppy up and drive there and-

SA: Drive to the airport or drive to Denver?

This is part 1 of Yahoo Finance’s Illegal Tender podcast Season 6 ‘The Puppy Crimes of Quarantine’. Listen to the series here. 

SS: No, drive to Denver. The second part was to get her out of the airport to pay … I can’t remember what his … for one thing, he had a very thick accent, so it was very difficult for me to understand a lot of things.

SA: Oh, you spoke to him verbally?

SS: Yes.

SA: Got it.

SS: On the phone also, besides texting. Texting was the easy part, I could’ve saved it, but a lot of it was verbal because the phone line went to this WhatsApp also. I guess people use it where there’s not good phone connections or something, I don’t know, but he said, “Oh, that’s okay. My friend and his wife are going on vacation to Denver and they’re leaving this Friday and they can bring her to you.” And I said, “Well, that would be great.” And, my husband said, “If they do that, we will give him $500 in cash for dropping the puppy off because-“

SA: To deliver a dog to you?

SS: Yes because it’s saving him the money of getting out there and back and the time-

SA: I have one question, it’s just a timeline question. So, what’s the elapsed time of when you first connected with this person, this alleged Harry, and till then connecting about trying to broker this deal of this is how much the puppy costs, this is how much I can … this is what I can do for you to I’m at the airport, I need more, to I conveniently have friends coming to California? What is that timeline there?

SS: I think it came somewhere within five days from the very beginning, five to seven days maybe

SA: That’s quick.

SS: I guess that he rushed things to keep me from thinking any more about it or getting any more input from someone else and finding out that this was not the way that things should be done. This is not the way you do it, but nobody else had purchased a pet over the internet and so we didn’t really have anybody we talked to about it, except that we were anxiously waiting for them to come.

A young girl is seen cuddling her puppy Bruiser on April 27, 2020 in Louth, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

This is part 1 of Yahoo Finance’s Illegal Tender podcast Season 6 ‘The Puppy Crimes of Quarantine’. Listen to the series here. 

Then, his friend, he says, “My friend James is going to be bringing her.” So, I get a phone call from James and he said he’s in Arizona. From the time they left, supposedly, and Ron, my husband said he probably never even left the state of Colorado. This is how untimely and unethical the whole thing was. He said his car broke down and he needed money to fix it. 

Now, him and his wife were coming to California, which is not a cheap place to stay. You need money for room and gas and food and entertainment, so he would have had to have had some money with him. Everybody has at least one credit card, I know. I don’t know of anybody who doesn’t in our age brackets because I don’t even know how old he was, but I’m assuming probably 40, 50-ish maybe.

I said, “I’m not sending any more money.” I said, “I’ve already sent money for the dog to be flown out. My husband was going to drive back.” I said, “No, I’m not going to send any more money.” I said, “I don’t care how you get her here, if you have to take a bus.” I said, “But, you better get her here because she’s been paid for.” He sent me a contract on email and it was a dog bill of sale, and this was on April 30th and it has his name and address, our name and address-

SA: What’s the address that he put down?

SS: It was in Denver, Colorado.

SA: Have you googled that address?

SS: Yes, my husband’s secretary from work did, and she said that it’s a residence, but there’s no other way … you can’t delve into it any further without an investigation of some kind.

SA: Right, but there’s definitely public record of who owns it and who lives there, so I’m just interested if you can-

SS: Well, that’s something we could have looked … I don’t know if it’s too late-

SA: Yeah, you can definitely pursue this, but that’s the reporter in me. We got to look this up, we got to see if this could be a dry cleaner, this could be a Mexican restaurant, we have no idea.

SS: Well, she just said it was in a residential area, so she’s a little bit savvier on that type of thing than me. I had never done it before, so I didn’t have the-

SA: You’re talking to a hardened New York cynic over here.

Several breeds of dogs and dogs of unknown breed cheered adults and children in a costume contest held in the Higienópolis neighborhood in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on 24 February 2018.(Photo by Cris Faga/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

This is part 1 of Yahoo Finance’s Illegal Tender podcast Season 6 ‘The Puppy Crimes of Quarantine’. Listen to the series here. 

SS: Yes, I suppose, but anyway, so I’m thinking … I started texting and telling him, “If we don’t get the pet… She’s paid for, she’s mine. I have a signed contract. You’ve seen it, signed it. I signed it.” And, it’s legal and binding as far as I was concerned. I don’t know it’s notarized or something like that. 

So, this was the ignorant mind of this type of business to me too. I thought that was just when you sign over a car to somebody, you sign the pink slip and you give them a little handwritten receipt or something.

And so, then I started threatening. I was getting angry because I wanted this puppy very bad. I really started getting attached to whole idea of having-

SA: Of course, I was going to ask probably at this point you have bowls, and collars, and a dog bed, and the name picked out. You’re ready to receive, you’re ready to nest.

SS: Yes.

SA: And, get to your fullest dog maternal instinct on this, so I can totally understand how you’re getting agitated, it puts it mildly, but you’re getting anxious and nervous and scared. It’s a little small toy animal. What is it, a toy, a teacup? What did you say?

SS: This one was a teacup.

SA: A teacup, that’s like two ounces. It’s ridiculous.

SS: It is, they’re about two pounds.

SA: Yes, and how many weeks old, allegedly, was this dog?

SS: Eight or nine I think, nine weeks old.

SA: So, probably barely a pound.

SS: Right, probably, and I told Harry after I spoke to this James about me sending money for his car repair, I said I’ve been reading up on the poodles and poodles are very intolerant of heat and he’s in Arizona, broke down. And I said, “That puppy could get sick.” I said, “You could lose that puppy.” I said, “I don’t want that to happen. I suggest that you send money. It’s your friend, not mine, and you’re the one that sent him out with her. My husband was ready to come and pick her up himself and she would have been in a nice little bed between him and his friend. One could drive, the other could watch the puppy, they could make stops and give her water, food, and everything.” My husband’s very good with that because we had two little dogs before and they traveled with us. Our last one went in our motor home when we went across states and she just loved it. 

But anyway, the whole idea of her being .. I’m still thinking this is for real that they’re in Arizona and my husband said they probably never even left the state of Colorado-

This is part 1 of Yahoo Finance’s Illegal Tender podcast Season 6 ‘The Puppy Crimes of Quarantine’. Listen to the series here. 

SA: I don’t think there was ever Colorado. I don’t think that anyone was ever in Colorado. I think that that was just a far enough away destination from you, but still commutable. How long would the car trip be from Southern California to Denver? What is that, multiple hours and hours, two days?

SS: Yeah, probably if they would’ve stopped and got a motel, and just for enough sleep to get by to go and come back, it probably would be a two-day trip stopping that way, unless they switched off driving, but they still would have the puppy to care for on the way back. It might have taken a little bit longer [crosstalk 00:26:34]-

SA: So, we’ll call it a quarter of a way across the country.

SS: Right. So, that didn’t happen and I told him, I said, “But, your friend James is trying to get more money out of me.” I said, “I suggest you send him the money, so he can get the puppy to me.” Well, that never happened, and everything … I just went on a rant of texting him, telling him exactly what my feelings were and I called him a thief. I said, “You stole my money. You’ve got my property. I paid for her, she’s mine.” And, I would get no reply. Well, pretty soon I found out he had closed off the account. I tried calling the phone number and I would get an answering machine, and he never returned my call. Then, pretty soon one night I called the phone number. It would ring and ring and ring, and then it would just go… 

The Japanese pet boom can be traced back to 2003, where it was estimated that the combined number of dogs and cats in Japan had outnumbered the number of children. (Photo: Trevor Mogg / Barcroft Media via Getty Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

So, I could never get ahold of him again, and that was when I just decided we had lost the whole thing, the money, the puppy. There was nothing we could do unless we hired a private investigator and a lawyer, and I said, “Then we’d probably end up spending more money doing these things to locate …” And, my husband doesn’t even feel like he was in Colorado. He was probably in a foreign country and these pictures he had up on his website … it was actually in Facebook, it wasn’t a website like the one that we bought this puppy from that we’re getting.

They have a beautiful website. It’s so informative, it’s so professional. Everything is just spot on. You couldn’t ask for any more in a website where you buy a pet because they give you all the information on each breed that you can choose from them and he had nothing-

This is part 1 of Yahoo Finance’s Illegal Tender podcast Season 6 ‘The Puppy Crimes of Quarantine’. Listen to the series here. 

SA: It was just a Facebook group.

SS: It was a Facebook page and-

SA: Do you know how many other people were in it and were there other people who were … there’s the page and you can post on the page and were there any other comments of people?

SS: I guess, but once they made a comment, his reply was text me through something, something, I can’t remember what it was. So, it wouldn’t show up on the internet. So, one time I must’ve caught in between his looking at the comments that people had put down because one went, is this puppy still available? And, I couldn’t reply to her. So, I said, “Whatever you do, do not give this man any money. I paid X amount of dollars for a dog I never got.” I said, “His name is Harry Jason.” I gave as much information as I possibly could to this girl. As a matter of fact, I got two of them off of his website and I sent them an email and I told them what he had done and the one girl went somewhere else right around her state. She was in South Carolina, I think, and she found exactly one of the puppies, the little toy poodle that she was looking at also.

And, she said, “I found one that and I got to go see it, hold it, and talk to the breeder, and I bought it from her.” And, she sent me pictures on my phone and a little video of her. It’s just the cutest little thing running around, and another red flag is the price. Every one of the websites I went to looking for this type of dog that his was, and that’s just like the one that I’m getting, they run anywhere from at least, the very least, $2,000 up to five, $6,000 depending on their breed, their paperwork, and what kind of dog they are, but mostly the small, down bread dogs are more expensive than your bigger … like a German shepherd that AKC. That just means his parents were both purebred and they were registered with the American Kennel Club.

So, you have to really do a little homework before you actually go on the internet and purchase an animal. The dogs are the most popular that I’ve seen as far as any animal. I never looked up any other ones, but this one was so different, the way that they handle everything. They’re always in touch with you, it’s a bit different [inaudible 00:32:12]. They don’t demand that you send this, or demand that you do this or do that or download this or download that. The only thing I had is their website, so that we could keep our tabs on the puppy and how she was doing, and after we bought her. This was only after we chose to purchase her.

SA: Got it.

Several breeds of dogs and dogs of unknown breed cheered adults and children in a costume contest held in the Higienópolis neighborhood in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Cris Faga/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

This is part 1 of Yahoo Finance’s Illegal Tender podcast Season 6 ‘The Puppy Crimes of Quarantine’. Listen to the series here. 

SS: So, all I can do to warn other people is just do some homework first. It’s not worth the heartbreak. That isn’t even including the loss of your money. When you start hearing about this little puppy or you fall in love with just looking at pictures and then you get nothing from it, it’s heartbreaking, especially after I just lost a little one and I was missing that little companionship of a little puppy, so that’s my advice to people is just do some homework.

SA: It absolutely just rips your heart out. I’m so sad for you and so sad thinking about this little puppy in a broken down car in Arizona, but there is no broken-down car, there is no Arizona, there’s no dog, and I know that and you know that because we’re intelligent people, but it still pulls at your gut.

SS: It does.

SA: And, especially for you. You’re in this situation and this new dog would have been … you said it, your new companion, your new little pal, and it would have been symbolic too, and it never … sadly, it never had been materialized. 

At what point when you were texting with Harry and with James, and I use those names in quotes because those aren’t their names, a shot in the dark, those are not their names, but at what point did you realize that this was a scam? Was it at the end, after he was asking for money to repair the car and when you said that he wasn’t answering, when Harry wasn’t answering on WhatsApp and the account was closed on PayPal, is that when it all connected for you?

SS: Actually, I was suspicious at the point of Arizona, the breaking down of the car because that’s when I said, “No, I’m not sending you any money. You get your car fixed and get Harry to send you the money. It’s his puppy and he’s the one that is supposed to be making the money off of the puppy. He’s responsible, he put you in a bad position because you’re supposed to be delivering it and if something happens to your vehicle, you still have the obligation to deliver this puppy to the place where it’s going.” So I said, “I suggest you get a hold of Harry and have him pay for your car repair.” And, it was after that I heard from Harry and I told him about James asking me for money and he acted surprised. Oh, he did?

And, I said, “Yes, and I’m not bringing out any more money. You either send it to him, or you find a way to get that puppy to me or I’ll just have to get an investigator.” I started threatening with a private investigator and a lawyer. I said, “I’ve spent this much amount of money and I still don’t have a puppy. I told James that he would have the $5,000 when he brought the puppy to me, in cash, and then he could go on his merry way, and whatever, if you decided to split that with him or give it to him completely, that was up to you, but that was between you two. I was just waiting for you to fill your obligation of delivering the puppy.”

Owner Karen Heuwetter (L) introduces her golden retrievers Buddy and Barley to customers at the Six Harbors Brewing Company on June 24, 2020 in Huntington, New York. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

This is part 1 of Yahoo Finance’s Illegal Tender podcast Season 6 ‘The Puppy Crimes of Quarantine’. Listen to the series here. 

SA: Right. You’re talking about these two players back and forth, Harry and James, and in my mind they’re either the same person or they’re multiple people and it’s multiple people in wherever in this world, pick a corner, and they have all of these little transactions happening. So, it’s just a bunch of people that are probably managing all of them and trying to keep tabs on where each one is in this transaction process. 

You said that you weren’t going to pursue any type of legal recourse. Were you able to connect with PayPal and get your transactions reversed?

SS: Actually, I had to pay them that money.

SA: You had to pay PayPal?

SS: Yes, I had to pay PayPal because-

SA: Why?

SS: Because we thought that it didn’t come out of the account. We didn’t know it had come out of the account. I wasn’t familiar with PayPal in that sense on how it worked when you send money like that to an email address. 

The only time I’ve ever did anything with PayPal is when you make a purchase of a clothing item or something and you can use PayPal to pay it, and it goes through your bank somehow or a credit card, it goes onto a credit card I think is how it works. And, I didn’t realize that I could get into a PayPal account until we got a phone call from them saying I owed them $3,000-something.

SA: What?

SS: Yes, so now we’re talking … 

SA: The bill’s up to $10,000 now.

SS: We’re pretty close. That would be the money that he got and then I can’t remember how … because it came quite a bit later and I said, “Why didn’t you contact me sooner?” And I said, “I need to talk to my husband about this.” I’m thinking I don’t trust anybody anymore. This is getting to be ridiculous.

A woman wears a face mask while takes her dog for a walk amid the daily life of the COVID-19 pandemic, the commercial business are beginning to break free of lockdown on June 25, 2020 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo: Carlos Tischler / Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

This is part 1 of Yahoo Finance’s Illegal Tender podcast Season 6 ‘The Puppy Crimes of Quarantine’. Listen to the series here. 

SA: This is paypal.com, right?

SS: Yeah, right. 

SA: Oh, man.

SS: And, so he said, “You would have to speak to our fraud department.” I’m done, my husband can talk to them if he wants to pursue it because it’s easier for him to do it than for me to try to do it and then try to remember what they told me to tell him when he’s available. So, I just left that part up to him and if he wanted to take care of going ahead with billing, then that would be his choice.

SA: So, we can bring this full circle now in that you are working with a reputable dog, puppy broker, that’s correct, right?

SS: Yes.

SA: Oh, you’ve actually frozen a little bit on me. That’s okay. Bring us home, tell us the happy ending now. There’s a new puppy coming. Tell me about that.

SS: Well, I found one of the sweetest little things. Now, there were four puppies in the litter. I preferred the little female puppies and they had several pictures of her and she just was the sweetest little thing. Another toy poodle, but she was a different color. The first one was a black one, but sometimes they turn like a dark gray when they’re black, the poodles. And so, this little one, it’s a light reddish, tannish color, and she’s a toy and she is now on her way via ground because they’re not flying right now with the COVID virus, so that kind of did a little bit of a hold up on us getting her because she was old enough before, but being as small as they are, they have restrictions on how much they weigh, how old they are before they can be transported either ground or air.

And, she’s coming by ground I’m in contact. Well, I haven’t heard from her today, but her driver contacted me to tell me that when approximately the time she’d be delivered depending on traffic and the circumstances, and how they handled them, and stopping for food and water and everything that’s going on, so that I’m aware of her travels, and I should be hearing from her probably sometime today. She’s supposed to be here Thursday, this is coming from West Virginia, so she’s a ways away from us. 

SA: No kidding, and how has this communication been different? I know that you said that this above board and that you’ve had her AKC pedigree dossier given to you, but do you just feel in your bones that this time around is different and that no one has been pushy or abrasive or none of that this time around, right?

Pools in Ontario aren’t open for humans yet, but they are for dogs. Melissa Blazak’s 11-year-old standard poodle, Rudy, makes some huge leaps into a pool at the K9 Fun Zone on June 19, 2020. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

This is part 1 of Yahoo Finance’s Illegal Tender podcast Season 6 ‘The Puppy Crimes of Quarantine’. Listen to the series here. 

SS: Everything was made, my questions, my concerns, and I did ask a lot of questions and I did question a lot of their answers.

SA: Good.

SS: Because of the experience that I had with the other one, I did not want to be played a fool again, and I wanted to make sure this time that things were above board and that this was definitely a reputable company. Well then, I have been searching their website and I found report puppy scammers. They had a section where you could actually type that, and that is how you and I got put together is through my post of what my experience was with this other person and how I lost the money and didn’t get a puppy. 

From there, I went and researched for puppy scammers and I actually posted the same story on about altogether five other places and I got letters thanking me. Everybody, they said, especially now during the COVID virus thing where people were going to be staying home, so they could care for a puppy and get housebroken and so forth that this was running rampant right now because of the situation with people who are working from home and people who are just not going out of the house, and so-

SA: Oh, I get it, Suzanne. I’m producing a podcast about it. I get it.

SS: Oh, well see that is why it’s so bad right now because there’s so much of it and people just need to be aware that they have to be a little bit more cautious about everything right now.

SA: Of course.

SS: And so, this was a hard lesson learned, but that’s what life is about, and you just learn next time, which is what I did. You get a little bit more in-depth into your research about something when you’re going to be putting your heart out and your money out.

SA: Agreed. I think that that’s a perfect place to end it. I actually have an interview immediately following yours. It’s going to be with one of the executives at PuppySpot, so I’ll have a whole bunch of other questions for him, but I thank you so much. Oh, one last question, when your puppy arrives on Thursday, what’s her name going to be?

SS: It’s going to be Mimzy.

Jenny from Bavaria tries to lure the water-shy dog Tyson into the North Sea. (Photo: Sina Schuldt/picture alliance via Getty Images)

This is part 1 of Yahoo Finance’s Illegal Tender podcast Season 6 ‘The Puppy Crimes of Quarantine’. Listen to the series here. 

SA: Mimzy, oh my God!

SS: I will tell you where I got the name.

SA: That is adorable.

SS: There was the sweetest movie that was out quite a few years ago, and it was a little girl, it was an animated one, but it was very well done, sort of like a Disney movie might be or Winnie-the-Pooh, but it was about this little girl and she had a little stuffed bunny that she named Mimzy and I guess her family, they would make these little bunnies and give them to children as they came down the line and from mother to daughter, to daughter, to daughter. 

And, she named hers Mimzy and I don’t remember why, but she was going to be the last one to receive a Mimzy. I guess they all called them Mimzy, but the movie was called The Last Mimzy and there’s a book of it and there’s also a little stuffed toy that looks like the one that she had in the movie and when I saw that little face, she just looked like a little stuffed dog. She didn’t look real and I thought that the perfect name for a little face like that would be Mimzy and so that’s what she’s been called.

SA: I love it.

SS: And one more thing, just a tag on it. The breeder named her Hope for the page because they name their puppies, so that they can be identified when they’re being sold, and her name was hope. Now, I put a little bit of my heart into her name- 

SA: That’s so poetic.

SS: There’s hope that this is going to work out, and so Mimzy is my little hope puppy.

SA: Aww, well safe travels to Mimzy. She’s probably somewhere around Texas or something by now, but I hope that she gets to you. I know that she’ll arrive to you and you guys are going to be in love and fast friends.

SS: And, we’ll be sending pictures-

SA: Oh, good. I was going to ask.

This photo taken on June 22, 2020, shows rescued dogs at a shelter on the outskirts of Beijing run by the NGO No Dogs Left Behind. (Photo by NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images)

This is part 1 of Yahoo Finance’s Illegal Tender podcast Season 6 ‘The Puppy Crimes of Quarantine’. Listen to the series here. 

SS: On PuppySpot, I think they’re called wet-nosed kisses or something where you can post your picture once your puppy arrives and you can have pictures of your puppy sent to them and they post them up, so people can see that they … some of them are at the airport, but that was before the virus, and then there’s some of them that are just at their homes, so we’ll be posting Mimzy’s picture when she gets here and the people who want to check it out at PuppySpot, I would say look for Mimzy.

SA: In our next episode, we’ll hear from Eleanor and how her search for a dog took her in a car 600 miles roundtrip to a cat sanctuary. 

Stephanie is a reporter for Yahoo Money and Cashay, a new personal finance website. Follow her on Twitter @SJAsymkos.

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