In scams targeting dog lovers, scammers may pose as breeders selling the pups on a fake website.
A San Antonio woman says that one website was so convincing, she's now out more than $1,300.
"I just recently finished spreading my husband's ashes in Hawaii. I was thinking to myself, to have a brand new start, I would love to get a new puppy. I love my Corgi, so I thought, what better than to have a friend for him?" San Antonio resident Esther Pipoly said.
Pipoly bought her first Corgi, Walter, online. She communicated daily with the breeder out of Missouri and, two weeks later, Walter arrived happy and healthy.
"I've always had pure bred dogs," Pipoly said. "Even though I don't breed them, it's just something that my late husband and I had always had."
This time around, Pipoly went for a smaller business to buy the dog. Surfing online, she came across PureBreedCorgiPups.com.
"The website looked extremely legitimate," she recalled. "The people were really friendly, asked a lot of questions. There were emails that went back and forth."
The company's website said it was based out of Atlanta, Georgia.
The grammer in the e-mails, said Pipoly, wasn't perfect, but she threw that aside thinking English might be a second language for what appeared to be a family-owned business.
"We were really excited about it," she said. "Then the shoe dropped."
After filling out a brief survey, the company sent Pipoly an adoption agreement. It required her to do a Walmart to Walmart money transfer of $800 to pay for the dog and the delivery to her house.
"[I received] confirmation from them that they'd received payment, that they were going to put the puppy on a plane on Monday. So it was happening fairly quickly," Pipoly described.
The next morning, after receiving what appeared to be a flight itinerary for the dog, the relocation company contacted Pipoly telling her that a vet suggested a temparature-controlled crate during the flight.
Without hesitation, she sent the $588 via Western Union to the relocation company, as directed.
"Here I was thinking, 'Ok, I've paid for the dog through Walmart to Walmart, now I've gone to Western Union.' It did peak a little bit of curiosity on my part, but I was like, 'Ok, we're still on track," Pipoly said. "I received an email saying when he would be delivered."
Then, at 2:30 p.m. that same day, the relocation company sent another email demanding an additional $978 for pet life insurance so the dog could leave from its layover in Chicago.
The email from Relocation Logistics Transporters read, in part:
We are facing a little problem, the Insurance and Quarantine service center for the City service which is the first Port of check-out requires an insurance certificate before proceeding the delivery of your Female Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
That's when it clicked.
"I'm a licensed insurance agent, so I knew that when they were asking for pet life insurance, they didn't know what they were doing," said Pipoly, who requested a picture of the dog in the crate, but the company was quick to deny it. "I needed proof. 'Send me a picture of the puppy in the crate with my name on a piece of paper that shows that he's actually there.' They couldn't do it. They said it was against the law and talked about FAA regulations and all kinds of regulations. I just knew it was time to hang up the phone."
Pipoly filed a police report and found out that she isn't the only victim of this elaborate scam.
"So I started going back. We started Googling the address on the bill of sale for the dog. It came up with no known address, or it was a vacant lot in Atlanta, Georgia," she said. "Then we went back to the relocation company and looked at their locations, and they weren't legit either."
The Better Business Bureau says that in a scheme just like Esther experienced, scammers will take advantage of the buyer's identity by asking for personal information like your birthday, address, and phone number.
The BBB says that on the day the animal is supposed to be shipped, the breeder will keep asking for more money. The puppy the customer receives may not be the puppy they agreed to purchase or, in Pipoly's case, they won't receive a puppy at all.
To prevent this from happening to you, the BBB recommends that you do your research, visit the breeder first, be aware of breeders who seem overly concerned with getting paid, don't pay via wire transfer, don't be fooled by a slick website, and consider adopting from a local animal shelter.
Many scammers will also change the website name. PureBreedCorgiPups.com now redirects to ToyCorgiPuppies.com.
Pipoly now plans to spread the word about the scam on social media.
"They were playing on the heartstrings," she said. "When you're looking for an animal and you're really willing to buy the animal, you're wanting to buy. So they knew the investment was already there. With an animal, it's an emotional investment. It's not just the financial investment. You're buying a family member."
KENS 5 contacted the website ToyCorgiPuppies.com'and Yvan Dab, the person listed in the "contact us" section, replied to our request for comment via e-mail saying,
"Sorry wrong web site i did not sell any puppy ok"
Our calls to the relocation company, Relocation Logistics Group, were not immediately returned.
The health insurance provided to Pipoly, Petsecure Pet Health Insurance, is based out of Canada.