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Better Business Bureau warns online purchase scams on the rise as holidays approach

Posted at 4:38 PM, Nov 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-01 18:30:28-04

GREENWOOD — It was all coming together for Brittany Shaw, of Greenwood.

“I had just bought my first house. And it’s just me and my kids," Shaw said. "And when I was a kid, I always wanted a St. Bernard."

The only other thing she needed, she says, was the puppy she had always dreamed of.

“So to me, buying a house, having my kids; that would just complete the dream,” Shaw said.

She went online to search for the perfect pup.

“I tried to be smart and make sure that I look to see that the breeder had reviews and a lot of information.”

Shaw thought she found the one. It was from a breeder in Texas, who told Shaw she was able to ship the puppy. Shaw decided to purchase the dog and sent the breeder money via Zelle. Then, things started to get fishy.

Costs with the shipping company the breeder allegedly used began piling on after already agreeing to an original price.

“The shipping company website even looked super legitimate,” she said. “There was tracking information, all of the stuff that made it seem super legitimate. And they got a hold of me and said look, the puppy needs a chilled kennel. And it made sense. It was in the heat of July in Texas. It made perfect sense. They sent me all this information about their different options. You could get different sizes, you can rent or you could buy.”

Getting frustrated with the mounting costs, Shaw said, “Obviously these two people were working together and just pulling at my heartstrings about it. At one point the logistics company started saying things like, well I just didn’t care about the puppy and that the puppy was there super stressed.”

Shaw reluctantly sent the additional money and was told the dog would arrive the next day.

“My daughter and I were sitting here waiting that morning to still expect to see a puppy at our door,” she said.

But it never arrived. Shaw was now out all of the money.

“I lost $5,000,” she said.

“What we’ve seen in the pandemic is people are using online purchasing much more,” said Tim Maniscalo with the Better Business Bureau. “The scammers know that.”

Maniscalo said scammers are creating more websites for people to buy things online, now making it the number one scam reported these days.

He suggests the following things to watch out for to know if the website is legitimate:

“So you want to look at the URL bar for the letters HTTPS. 'S' is the important letter there,” Maniscalo said. “Also look for that little lock icon. A couple of other things; look for misspellings, look for what I’m going to call awkward English. Most of these websites all come from countries where English is not their first language.”

Despite everything, Shaw didn’t let this stop her from completing her dream, eventually getting the St. Bernard puppy she always wanted.

“So I do have my puppy now. Just not the one that I thought I would have,” Shaw said.

The BBB warns just because the website might be the first link that pops up at the top of a search engine, it doesn’t mean it’s legitimate. Keep a critical eye. They say scammers can copy company websites very easily.

The BBB has a Scam Tracker online where you can see the scams being reported in your area. You also can report a scam right there on the website, as well.