CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. -- Tammy Parucki's dog, Purple, was a part of her family for almost 15 years. The dog had to be put to sleep over the summer.
"She got very weak, so I knew at that point I had to make the decision to put her down, and it was very difficult," Parucki said. "She was like one of my children."
Tammy and her two sons quickly realized they needed another pet in the home, and they wanted another miniature pinscher, the same breed as Purple. However, finding one at a local shelter or store proved difficult.
"So I started looking online," Parucki explained.
She discovered the website classyminiaturepinscher.com, which looked reputable, with pictures of all the dogs for sale, long descriptions, testimonials and contact information. The owner talked to Tammy via email and by phone.
"I thought, wow, he's getting personal," Tammy recalled. "And that's a great thing."
It turns out, it was all part of an elaborate scam to steal money from Tammy.
After wiring $950 to the seller, the shipping company demanded another $1,500 for two special crates. The seller convinced Tammy it was fine. In reality, the Better Business Bureau says the seller and transport company were working together.
In the end, Tammy got scammed out of $2,500.50, including the costs for two puppies, two special crates and fees.
Even though she never received the pets, the seller refused to refund the money.
2 On Your Side reached out to both "companies", but neither responded, and they shut down their websites.
"These scammers are becoming a lot more elaborate in what they're doing," said Melanie McGovern, spokesperson for the Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York.
The seller recently put an identical website back online with a slightly different URL. It's still trying to sell the same fake miniature pinschers.
The website for the transport company, which was called Easy Animal Relocators, now automatically sends visitors to a site trying to sell cats. It's also been reported as a scam, working much the same way as the miniature pinscher site.
The BBB recently put out a national report focused on these types of pet scams. It found the FTC has collected more than 37,000 complaints with issues involving pets. The agency estimates less than 10% of victims of this type of fraud actually report it. The BBB ScamTracker has around 1,000 reports of this type of pet fraud.
"The biggest red flag on our end is the alternate payment method," McGovern said of Tammy's case. The seller insisted she pay using Western Union. McGovern said reputable sellers will accept checks or credit/debit cards.
McGovern said to also be on the lookout for misspellings on the websites and in emails. That's a sign of a questionable company.
The BBB report includes many other tips on how to avoid becoming a victim.
You can also check the website PetScams.com, which keeps track of websites built by scammers. The list grows by the day.
McGovern gave Tammy a lot of credit for sharing her story and raising awareness for others. She also praised Tammy for alerting the BBB, police and even the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Since we first interviewed Tammy, she and her two boys picked out a new puppy, another miniature pinscher. Their house once again feels like home, although they'll never forget their beloved Purple.
"I'm still grieving over my dog that I put to sleep, but do I want to provide love to another dog? Absolutely," Tammy said. "I do want to do that, yes."
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