GRETNA, Neb. (KMTV) — Now is a great time to add an animal into your life, but if you’re not careful you can find yourself on the wrong side of a pet scam with a lot of money gone and no pet to show for it.
The Better Business Bureau projected last year that over 4,000 people would be conned by pet scammers, with a total estimated loss of over $3 million.
One woman in Gretna has found herself in the middle of several of these scams. She’s not selling puppies, nor has she bought any from a scammer.
Her address is being handed out as a pickup location by several scammers. She’s had people as far as Wisconsin, Missouri and Minnesota come to pick up their new pet and be disappointed when they find out there's no puppies there.
“It’s heartbreaking," said Linda Albrecht. "People are excited. I just pray there aren’t little kids in the car.”
Other addresses in Omaha are being used for these imagined kennels. The local chapter of the Better Business Bureau says the website hometownbulldogworld.com claims to have several bulldogs for sale in Omaha, with a price tag of $850 each.
When the bureau went to the address, those puppies were nowhere to be found. It's believed more scammers are using Omaha as their hunting ground because it's centrally located and people in the Midwest are often perceived as being trustworthy.
Albrecht says she’s working with the Bureau to have her address taken down off these sites, but the scammers are now giving it out over the phone. So why keep using her address?
Albrecht had been looking for her own puppy last year, when she realized a seller she’d shared her address with was on the puppy scams list. She called them out online, and only a few months later, strangers started showing up at her door.
“This is a relatively new home in this area, and so for this particular address to come up on those kind of websites, it seems personal, yeah.”
If you’re searching for a pet online the Better Business Bureau says make sure you see the pet in person or on a video call before handing over any money. Be aware that scammers are using COVID-19 as a way to avoid visits.
They also suggest doing a reverse Google image search to make sure the pet you’re being promised doesn’t already belong to somebody else.