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Mike’s Musings: Puppies, housing scams are latest

Scammers are everywhere on social media and the internet these days. They used to pose as policemen seeking funds or IRS agents demanding the money you owe for back taxes. But lately schemes have been getting more and more sophisticated. I’m going to tell you about two that friends experienced last week.
First is the puppy scam. This one I had firsthand knowledge of. A good friend was seeking to purchase a puppy for enjoyment and companionship. She looked at several sites on social media and the internet and settled on a puppy in Colorado.
The Colorado company’s website was extremely professional, showing off several puppies at very price points. My friend texted back and forth many times and was satisfied with the answers she received from the website’s owner. She then proceeded to Zelle the several hundred dollars down payment to the company.
This was done in the evening, and I suggested to her that she call them in the morning to confirm receipt and prepare for the puppy to be shipped. I also thought she should here a human voice first before she sent the balance of the payment.
She agreed. Next morning, she placed a call. At the other end was a male with a distinct accent. She asked for the company’s owner, the lady she had texted the previous night. He said she was unavailable, at work, and wouldn’t return for several hours. She asked for her work phone. He refused to give it. They argued back and forth, and she asked for a refund. He hung up.
She called her bank and Zelle, but neither would refund her downpayment. I searched the internet and began to realize that many of the puppy sites are scams. They lure you in with photos of adorable puppies and then proceed to take your money. It has happened to thousands of people looking for their perfect pet.
Lessons Learned: Do not buy a pet from an out-of-state website. There are plenty of puppies to choose from within your own state. Local animal shelters have many puppies available for adoption and they don’t cost an arm and a leg. Never pay using Zelle or other third-party services that your local bank can’t help you retrieve money from. Never use Western Union.
A second scam that seems to be making the rounds is on rental units- mostly homes. An acquaintance was in desperate need of a temporary rental. She had two cats, so many of the places she contacted wouldn’t accept her with the two cats.
She saw an ad on Craigslist- a home that was pet-friendly and in her price range. The ad had several exterior and interior photos. She asked the homeowner if she could walk through the home. He said he was out-of-state and the only she could see it was to drive up and peak through the windows. If she liked what she saw she could forward a $700 deposit.
She thought that was kind of strange so she googled Zillow and decided she would view the home on that website. Lo and behold, she pulled up the home, and noticed it was the house of an old friend. The scammer had taken the photos off of Zillow, to create an ad on Craigslist, in an attempt to receive multiple $700 deposits.
Obviously, she did not send her deposit. Authorities were notified but catching most scammers is futile. Many of them live in a faraway country such as Nigeria or the Ivory Coast. With this scam they prey on desperate families needing housing fast and cheap. My acquaintance was smart enough to avoid their trap, but I wonder how many others have fallen for it.
When buying anything online, be vigilant. Make sure the seller is legitimate. Scams are everywhere and you will get burned if you aren’t careful.

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