By Brian Maass


PARKER, Colo. (CBS4) – Neill Flate, a 72 year old CPA in Parker, just wanted a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy. What he got instead, was a scam. “Absolutely, and I’m sure I’m not the only one”, said Flate.

The Flates (credit: CBS)

He and his wife Donna are now hoping others seeking puppies online can learn from their $1,070 mistake.

“It just gets me that there are people like this in the world,” said Donna. “It just blows my mind.”

Daisy (credit: CBS)

When the Flate’s Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named “Daisy” died in December, Neill turned to the internet to find another puppy. He landed on a website offering the exact kind of puppy they were looking for. The Flates fell in love with a puppy featured on the site named “Leia.”

(credit: CBS)

“We looked at the website and it was very legitimate. They showed the puppies they had for sale. There was a little blurb about them, about the kennel with pictures, with kids. And they had a FAQ section on feeding, how they ship.”

Neill contacted the supposed breeder behind the website who said he was in Texas. In short order, Neill wired the operator $820 for the puppy and another $250 to pay for a “Flight Nanny” to fly with Leia from Texas to Denver and deliver the dog to the Flates.

(credit: CBS)

The purported “breeder” called himself Dominic Thomson and emailed that Leia was “available and ready to go.” His first emailed question: “Is your bank supported by Zelle?” He said the Flates would get Leia 48 hours after their payment was received.

But as days went by with no puppy, the Flates continually emailed “Dominic” even asking at one point “Have we been scammed?”

(credit: CBS)

Eventually, Dominic stopped communicating.

“I think they are crooks,” said Flate, “This is pure greed.”

It is also not unusual. Experts estimate 80% of online puppy selling websites are scams using stolen puppy photos to peddle nonexistent pups. Tens of thousands of Americans fall victim every year, much like the Flates.

When CBS4 began investigating, we found the site the Flates found was listed on Petscams.com as a scam website “created by criminals in order to defraud people.” CBS4 could not locate any of the supposed happy customers who offered testimonials on the website. And when we ran Leia’s picture through an image search, it showed the same picture being used to sell a dog named “Tracy” on a foreign website.

“Hopefully through CBS and through word of mouth, we want to make an effort to make sure that people don’t get scammed through this person or someone running a similar scam,” said Flate.

“Dominic” did not respond to emailed inquiries from CBS4.

Experts say if you are seeking to buy a puppy from a breeder, go in person and meet the breeder and the dog. If you cannot do that, at least Facetime the seller. And for further protection, use a credit card for the purchase instead of wiring money. Finally, if the online price seems inordinately cheap, that’s usually a sign that the website is a scam.

As for Leia, the website still shows Leia is “in stock” and available for purchase.

Brian Maass

Comments
  1. Stephanie da Silva says:

    Yeah it’s why I’ll only pay via Paypal or a credit card.