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AG: Puppy scams in Michigan increase during pandemic

“Several Michiganders have recently been tricked into paying for pets that do not exist.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and the Humane Society of the United States are warning consumers about the dangers of puppy scams.

As an increased number of people stay home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many are turning to the internet to adopt puppies. However, the Michigan Department of Attorney General has reportedly seen a surge in complaints about puppy scams.

“Several Michiganders have recently been tricked into paying for pets that do not exist," a statement provided by the department reads.

Unfortunately, most of these scammers are from out of the country, making the prospects of getting money back very low.

“Scammers are looking for any way to take advantage of consumers during this pandemic and puppies are unfortunately not exempt,” Nessel said.

“While many people may be eager to bring home a puppy during this time, I urge Michiganders to be vigilant in their search to avoid being scammed. My office continues to prioritize protecting residents from predatory and deceptive business practices, and these puppy scams will ultimately result in heartbreak and financial loss.”

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Not only are scammers advertising puppies that do not exist, but they are also using the pandemic as a reason to avoid in-person visits and to demand additional fees.

Each year, U.S. citizens spend more than $1 billion purchasing or adopting puppies, according to the Michigan Department of Attorney General. However, most people spend this money without realizing that they may be doing business with scammers, puppy mill operators or both.

“Taking advantage of Michiganders by exploiting our love of animals is as cruel to the people as it is to the dogs. We are very grateful to General Nessel’s office for taking this issue seriously,” said Molly Tamulevich, Michigan State Director for the Humane Society of the United States.

Fifty complaints of alleged puppy scams have been reported to the Michigan Department of Attorney General since 2018, and the department says 26 of those complaints have been filed this year alone.

Below is a list of best practices, provided by the Attorney General, that can help prevent consumers from falling victim to puppy scams:

  • Research the breed
  • Research the breeder
  • Research the advertised puppy
  • Do not purchase a puppy sight-unseen
  • Use a credit card to make the purchase
  • Retain all documents and communications from the breeder
  • Consider contacting your local shelter

Michiganders who believe they have been a victim of a puppy scam can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection team online.

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