Action 9

Pet scams on the rise as more people look for pandemic puppies

The ad in Facebook read “free dogs and puppies for adoption near you.”

“They sent me pictures, it was the cutest little thing,” Latasha Ursin said.

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Ursin thought the teacup Maltese was going to be her pandemic companion. All she had to pay was a $350 shipping fee. Then she heard something different.

“They’re on the flight but you got to pay this, first class flight is going to be $1,200, we’re going to need more money,” Ursin said.

In total, she paid $500 through Cash App but when she refused to pay any more, the scammers threatened her with arrest.

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Ursin said she was told, “If you don’t come and get this dog it will die, you’re going to be charged for animal cruelty, dog abuse.”

“Honestly, I felt like it was the real thing, but it was a fake, it was a scam,” Laersi Ranking said.

She was also taken by an online puppy scam. She found a rottweiler on craigslist and paid $450 in shipping fees.

“It was extremely frustrating, and the children are heartbroken because they were expecting a puppy and we got nothing,” Ranking said.

More families have been getting puppies to help them get through the pandemic and scammers have been busy trying to take advantage of that.

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According to the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker, there were 3,000 puppy scams reported in 3 years, and over 1300 of those, were in the last six months. Some of the victims include a consumer in Minnesota who was taken for $60,000, and another in Washington state lost $13,000.

“That is a big deal, that says that a lot of Central Floridians, a lot of Americans, right now are at risk for this scam,” said BBB President Holly Salmons.

Both consumers Action 9 spoke with, were directed to fake pet shipping companies, with websites that look very real, and they were told to make payments through Cash App.

Ursin says the mobile payment app should do more to make sure the bad guys aren’t using their service.

“I thought Cash App was a secure way,” Ursin said.

Action 9 contacted Cash App, a spokesperson said the company is always working to protect their customers and want to hear from those that feel victimized by scams.

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Ranking says this ordeal has affected the entire family, including her daughter Vanessa.

“Can you all please help us to get like a new puppy and get our money back,” Vanessa said.

Ranking has asked Cash App for a refund, but she is still waiting.

If you’re looking for a puppy, local shelters and local reputable breeders are always the best way to go.

Information from Cash App spokesperson:

“We are always working to protect our customers, which includes educating them about phishing scams. As a reminder, the Cash App team will never ask customers to send them money, nor will they solicit a customer’s PIN or sign-in code outside of the app. If you believe you have fallen victim to a scam, you should contact Cash App support through the app or website immediately. For more information on common online scams, please visit”

Todd Ulrich

Todd Ulrich,

I am WFTV's Action 9 Reporter.

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