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Coronavirus-related scams targeting folks buying everything from cars to puppies

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Posted at 4:30 AM, May 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-20 10:35:31-04

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (WXYZ) — If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

That's what a Better Business Bureau spokesperson said after telling 7 Action News that the bureau has seen a rise in complaints concerning fake online sales – and many of them are taking advantage of coronavirus-related restrictions.

Jillian Bacon of Royal Oak had just lost her beloved 7-year-old dog “Boomer.”

After some time, she decided to get a new puppy.

In mid-April, she did an online search for “boxer puppies for sale” and stumbled upon “Axel” – an 8-week-old puppy pictured on a website claiming to feature dogs from a breeder in Virginia.

Bacon asked for more pictures and video of the puppy, and she received them -- via text. The website looked legitimate to her.

“It also said that the site was verified by the American K9 Association. It had the little logo at the bottom. It had the information of the vets that check all these dogs,” explained Bacon.

And the price was good -- $650 for an 8-week purebred boxer -- complete with shots and papers.

Because of COVID-19 concerns, the breeder said he’d ship the dog for a fee or meet the buyer at a central location.

Bacon decided to pay for the pup in advance and drive the nine hours to pick him up.

“When we showed up to the site where we were meeting, I called [the breeder], and he picked up. He was like, ‘Hello?’ I was like, ‘Hi…I’m here for axel.’ He was like, ‘One minute. Let me connect you.’ And then it was - click,” she said, making a gesture with her hand imitating hanging up a phone.

FAKE LISTINGS

The Better Business Bureau of Eastern Michigan has seen an uptick in these unreputable websites or false listings on Craigslist.

Laura Blankenship said watch out for added fees to cover coronavirus-related concerns or extra vet screenings, and be wary of lower prices.

“You should always do your research to see what those animals typically cost. Because if they typically cost over a thousand dollars, and they’re offering the animals for $500, then that is a huge red flag,” said Blankenship.

She also recommended that you do a reverse image search to see if the animal’s picture exists elsewhere online. If it does, that’s a huge red flag that the ad is fake.

ONLINE AUTO SALES

The BBB is also seeing scams related to online auto sales.

Some people are not checking out these vehicles in-person beforehand because of stay-at-home orders. So, they’re doing most of the interaction online and paying up front for the vehicles.

“Sometimes there is a car. But more likely than not, there’s not one,” said Blankenship.

She said complaints are coming in about these schemers on Craigslist and Facebook marketplace. She also said some people are even creating online dealerships that don’t exist.

“If they’re communicating with you via email, and they come up with some excuse as to why they can’t meet with you in person or why an inspector wouldn’t be able to check out the vehicle, then that’s a red flag. And you might want to go somewhere else,” explained Blankenship.

If buyers purchase a vehicle from a reputable dealer, and it’s dropped off at their home, there is a window to return it.

“They do have recourse. They have something called the Right of Recession,” she added.

The buyer has three days to decide if they’re not happy with the purchase. And then they can go back to the dealer and they can work something out within that window. Again, that’s only if you’re dealing with a car from a reputable auto dealership.

Blankenship said the BBB’s big reminders when purchasing a car online:

  • Never use a money transfer
  • Never buy pre-paid gift cards
  • Never use cash
  • Never use your debit card

Her advice is to pay with a credit card – because sometimes with fraud cases you can have some recourse.
She also said Paypal or Google Pay are good options.

Bottom line: She said you need to do your research to see if the company is accredited or if it’s received a lot of complaints or if it exists at all.

You can search for the company's name on www.bbb.org.