FLAGLER COUNTY, Florida – The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office has said it has received dozens of complaints about puppy scams across the county.
As of 2020, 10 cases have been reported to the Sheriff’s Office and 20 cases reported to the Flagler Beach Police Department.
MPs said in recent cases victims have responded to advertisements on sites like Craigslist and social media platforms.
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Victims show interest in a puppy put up for sale, move through the puppy reservation process, put down a deposit or the full amount and the seller disappears, MPs said.
MPs said there were several red flags to watch out for when looking to buy a puppy.
• The seller prefers to manage the communication only by e-mail and not by phone.
• Photos of dogs posted or shared with potential buyers are archival photos.
• Photos and descriptions of the animal can be found on several websites.
• Non-traditional payment requests, where the seller requests a money transfer or gift card payment.
• The price is too good to be true.
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MPs said recent cases also included fraudulent American Kennel Club documents in which the seller claimed the puppies were AKC certified.
Animals registered by the AKC will always be listed through the AKC, and certification can be verified by calling 919-233-9767, officials said.
MPs said the AKC also allows people to see if there are any complaints filed against the seller.
Legitimate breeders are required by law to adhere to the minimum standards of humane care and treatment of animals established by the Animal Welfare Act and enforced by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services, said the deputies.
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Flagler County officials have shared some tips for verifying the legitimacy of people relocating or selling the animals:
• Ask for several photos of the animal, including poses with specific objects such as a recent newspaper or a tennis ball, to make sure the animal is real.
• Ask for the phone number of the person selling / relocating the animal and the name of the veterinary clinic where the animal was seen. If the seller does not give the number or if it is not a US number, it is probably a scam. If you are provided with phone numbers, call back and ask questions.
• If the seller tells you they are in a particular condition and asks you to send money elsewhere, including another country, avoid them.
• If the person claims to be a breeder or a rescue organization, ask for registration information. (All legitimate businesses and nonprofits will be registered with SunBiz and the Department of Agriculture). You can check at: https://dos.myflorida.com/sunbiz/search/
• Never pay cash by money order or Western Union. Always use a credit card in case you need to dispute a charge.
• Be skeptical if the seller adds “extra charges” such as fees for vet visits, different fund, travel expenses, pet insurance, etc. Pet insurance is NOT required for a pet to travel.
• Do not trust a salesperson who pushes for the sale to happen quickly because he is moving, needs to relocate the animal immediately, or says the puppy may be injured if he is not. taken in a timely manner.
• Do some research to get an idea of the breed you are looking for, the vendor, agency, organization or rescue you select, and make sure you understand what this entails in the cost.
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“With the recent incidents of scammers finding new ways to steal money from residents, we want to make sure Flagler County residents are aware of these scams and how to protect themselves,” Sheriff said. Rick Staly in a press release. “It saddens me to see people sink to this level by using animals to make quick money. Be vigilant and vigilant, report any suspicious activity, and do your research when adding a new pet to your family. We have some great local organizations that can help you adopt a pet, like the Flagler Humane Society, so if you are considering adopting, be sure to select a reputable organization or person.
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