LOS ANGELES, CA (CBS Newspath) – The Better Business Bureau says online pet scams continue to be a problem during the pandemic.

Two years after Ashley Brown’s dog Maddox passed away, she decided it was time to get another Doberman Pinscher. “My family, they always send me links to different breeders,” she says.

Brown fell in love with a puppy she saw on a website called James Doberman. She reached out on the site’s contact page and then exchanged several text messages. Brown said she eventually paid nearly $3,000 to have the puppy shipped, but the dog never arrived. “We showed up at the airport, and he wasn’t there,” Brown said. “We went out and bought new bedding, new crates, all kinds of new toys.”


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Brown showed CBS News screenshots of four different payments she said she made with credit cards and a payment app for the dog and shipping. CBS News reached out to the website James Doberman and were told in a series of emails that, “She never sent such amounts of money…” and that “James Doberman is no scam.”

“I followed up with them like once a week for probably three or four weeks asking again for my refund, but I obviously didn’t get it,” Brown said.

Pet scams exploded during the pandemic. Reports filed with the Better Business Bureau show the amount of money Americans lost tripled in 2020 compared to the previous year.

Steve Baker from the BBB says “there’s no obvious red flags in these.” But he says there are ways to make sure the puppy is real. “Ask the seller to do some sort of video conference, Zoom or something like that, holding the puppy,” Baker says.

You can also check PetScams.com, which offers a list of potentially fake sites, and do an image search of the pet promised. CBS News found the same picture of the puppy Brown wanted on another breeder’s Facebook page posted a year and a half ago.

“I don’t think I would purchase one online, I think I would always go there in person,” Brown says. She plans to continue her search, hoping to get another dog like Maddox.