Family's photo used dozens of times on fake breeder websites

10Investigates uncovers fake pet scam online

It’s website after website offering you a deal on a new beloved pup.

But, look closer. Click a little more, and each website claims to be this family.

But how can one family run all of these websites across the country?

They don’t. These are fakes.

But this family seen over and over again are real.

10investigates tracked them down. They are the Fawcett’s, a family who lives in Alabama and runs a legitimate Maltese breeding business, Alwaysmaltese.com.

“When you found out your picture was being used over and over again how did that make you feel?

“It made me feel sick to my stomach,” says Veronica and Alan Fawcett. “It’s bad enough when they use your puppy pictures, but when they started using our family pictures and renaming our children, that just made me sick to my stomach.”

Veronica and Alan Fawcett say they have been dealing with this for years. But once they fight to get one site shut down, another one pops right up.

“My world stopped when this first started happening. I couldn’t believe it,” says Fawcett.

The Fawcett’s say they do what they can to try and stop it.
On their website, you can’t right-click an image to save it. It’s now blocked, where on the fake websites you still can.

“Internet activists groups are trying to educate and they’re literally patrolling for these type of things, these fake websites to get them shut down,” says Fawcett.

A spokesperson for the Better Business Bureau says they are also trying their best to get these fake websites shut down.

“Websites are popping up left and right and it’s a battle for law enforcement. The key here is to keep reporting it,” says Bryan Oglesby with the Better Business Bureau.

What kind of breed is the most popular to try and scam?

According to the Better Business Bureau study, the scammers do not need to have actual pets available for sale, it is a simple matter to advertise breeds that are most popular – and often those hardest to obtain.  

Today, many of the complaints involve Yorkshire Terriers (Yorkies) and French Bulldogs. Petscams.com has provided a breakdown of the pet websites they have flagged as fraudulent for a six-week period between May 29, 2017, and July 12, 2017.  The largest number of bogus websites they identified were selling Yorkshire terriers (108), French Bulldogs (105), Pomeranians (77), Bulldogs (73), and Huskies (63).

In just the past few months nationwide, we found reports from all over the country.

One person says they lost $16,747.73 from an online puppy scam. The consumer continued to wire money for a variety of “costs” associated with the shipment.

“Tens of thousands of consumers have been victims of puppy scams. Unfortunately, not everybody reports it,” says Oglesby. “The best scam is a scam that plays on your emotions, that best to play on emotions then puppies.”

How to try and spot a fake:

Oglesby says these scam artists can replicate legit websites.

 “The key here is to stop for a minute, do your homework, do your research, speak to your breeder and ask to meet with the breeder,” says Oglesby.

Most legitimate breeders will welcome the visit. There is no good way to be sure you are not dealing with a fraud if you have no direct in-person contact.

But if that is impossible, there is a trick that may help to avoid a fraud. 

Pet marketing usually begins with photos. An internet search of these photos will reveal whether they are exclusive to that site, or have been used on other sites. 

How do you do this?  

On Google Chrome, simply place a cursor over the photo and right-click. It will provide an option to do an internet search of the photo.  A website called tineye.com will also search pictures and Google.

And never wire any money.

“Go to Petscams.com, go to our website. We’re working very hard to shut down these fraudulent websites."

“They’ll ask you to send a money order or money transfer,” says Fawcett.

The Fawcett’s want you to know there are good breeders out there that are real.

“You’re not going to find a nice puppy from a reputable breeder for $300,” says Fawcett. “There’s a certain amount of impulse. You see a cute puppy. They get excited and think they found the needle in a haystack. You have to take your time and do your research. Google their name and address and see where they are.”

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© 2017 WTSP-TV


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