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Puppy fraud reported in Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. -- Buying a puppy should be an exciting time for dog lovers. However, it's been crushing for some Virginia families, victims of puppy fraud. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring issued a warning this week to Virginia families looking to buy a purebred puppy.

"The last thing anyone would want to happen is to pay hundreds of dollars to bring that puppy home, only to find out that he or she never existed," Attorney General Herring said. "Unfortunately, we've seen an increase in complaints about these puppy scams, and I urge all Virginians to give careful consideration to all large purchases made online, particularly if the terms seem too good to be true."

He said scammers are posing as Virginia-based companies selling purebred pets online. As part of the fraud, he said, "consumers are asked-after payment for the animal is complete-to pay additional funds for 'transportation insurance,' and told that their pet cannot be delivered until this amount is paid."

He offered these tips and red flags for  potential puppy buyers:

The puppy or kitten involved in the transaction is a purebred, or a designer breed, and the price of the animal is significantly less than any other site or seller on the Internet (more than 50-75% off of a similarly-priced purebred)

The company requires payment via MoneyGram, Western Union, or other similar method

The representative of the company has a generic free e-mail account, such as through Google or Yahoo, and insists on communication only through e-mail

The seller says that the dog will be transported via air travel, and asks for the closest airport during discussions surrounding the transaction

After the initial fee of several hundred dollars is paid for the animal, the consumer may be asked to pay "pet transportation insurance," or other similar previously-undisclosed fees or charges

Be wary of paying for any pet entirely online, or before seeing the animal in person

Seek referrals for pet sellers from sources you know and trust, such as friends, family, or your veterinarian

Search for the business's name or website in the Attorney General's Online Consumer Complaint Database, and check with the local Better Business Bureau for any complaints.

If you have been a puppy scam victim, call the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Section at 1-800-552-9963 in Virginia or 804-786-2042 if calling from Richmond.