The Bernedoodle Puppy Scam
Deciding to shop for a dog online is a big decision especially when there are so many Covid-19 dogs in shelters. Nonetheless, after my 14-year-old Golden Retriever passed away I decided I wanted to buy the Doodle I’ve always wanted.
My research landed me on a Berenedoodle. Part Bernese Mountain Dog part Poodle. As I started researching I noticed the price of these designer dogs was astronomical. The prices would range from $2500-$4000. I had never heard of a dog being that pricey so I continued to search.
One day I ran across a website called FamilyRaisedbernedoodle.com. I saw the price was $1400!!! I thought to myself, now we’re talking! They even had a wonderful customer review!!
So, I reached out online, and filled out the questionnaire with my basic contact information; email, and cell phone. A few hours later I received a text from the “owner” (mind you, it’s now the middle of the night) (Red Flag)
The “owner” stated that he would text me first thing in the morning to retrieve some information about the dog in which I was interested. Perfect!
But, I still had a nagging suspicion about the middle-of-the-night response. But then, I wrote it off since the location of the breeder was a 3-hour time zone behind me. The next day, the “owner” contacted me via text giving me some information about the dog and confirming my email address. I confirmed.
An hour later, I received an email with pictures of the puppy in different poses, and a live video to boot! The email stated that the pup would be shipped to me and would come with the shipping crate, toys, and a small bag of food. Great! I thought to myself daydreaming about my new pup.
The only downside was I had to wait a month before I could take the dog. Ok. A day later, the owner texted me back and asked for full payment because others were interested in the same dog. I thought, “ok, well how about a down payment”. So I texted back and asked. No response. Then I called. The phone rang and rang. A text cane through. “Can’t talk. Busy”
Fair enough. We’ve all been there. Later, the owner (Doug) asked that we communicate via email or text. (Red Flag) Alright, so be it, I thought to myself.
Doug wanted payment in full right away (Red Flag)
I’d never heard of such a thing. However, I still had lots of questions. Once again my gut was telling me “why a full payment & not a down payment”? I had already set my heart to the pup and the price tag was on target. So, I emailed Doug with a whole host of questions as to why he requires full payment. I decided to go through with the payment.
The first time I tried to send payment via Zelle my bank denied it. (Red Flag) Hmm, I thought. Let me try again. Second attempt. Denied. (Red Flag)
Then I reached out to Doug and told him I was having issues with the transfer. I went as far as to send him screenshots of the attempts. (My gut told me to mark out all banking numbers-which I did, thankfully) However, the name of the bank was still there. NOT GOOD. Doug then asked me to break the payment in two. I tried to process the payment in two – Denied again!.
Frustrated with all the attempts, I asked about Venmo. Doug gave me a contact to use on Venmo (Thomas Anderson) to where I could transfer funds.
So, ok. Wouldn’t you have expected a username like “Doug—–” or Family Raised Berndoodles”? I once again went against my intuition because my brain questioned the name, but my heart would contradict and make excuses.
After I transferred the money from my banking account, I was able to transfer the money to him. Even though Venmo warned me with a popup. The fake Venmo account had a picture of a Hersheys Factory as their logo. I tried to research the name and the logo days later coming up empty-handed.
(This was yet another clue that something was quite right – which I chose to ignore)
Transfer Complete. A screenshot of the transaction was sent for confirmation. For the next month, I sent Doug lots of questions concerning the pup. Sometimes it would take days for him to get back to me which would frustrate me.
I posed questions like: How big will she be? What kind of food have you been feeding her? How old are the mother and the father? Which of the pair is the Poodle? I don’t want to ship her, can I pick her up? No response. Can I fly out there and pick her up?
Finally, a response came through. Doug asks “why are you insisting on picking her up”? Me: “why not” “I have the ability to do so” Doug- no response.
As the day drew closer, Doug reached out and said that the shipping expenses had increased and he needed more money. He asked for $250 extra dollars. Now, mind you the more we communicated the more broken his English became. (Red Flag) He would make all kinds of grammatical errors with spelling and sentence structure- which wasn’t the case in the beginning.
Since fuel prices had climbed steeply, I agreed to pay the extra $250 shipping costs. Doug then told me that he would be sending me the shipping information (tracking # etc) Two days later, the shipping information came. When I logged in to get the shipping information (on my computer) a video popped up with an airplane taking off. (BIG FAT RED FLAG)
Has anyone ever seen any shipping site with a pop-up window of an airplane? I haven’t.
Do your research beforehand:
This particular shipping site also routed its way back to the FamilyRaisedBernedoodles.com website- also not normal. This site also asked for an extra $750 for shipping in a “first-class heated crate” and that the crate was mine to keep. (Wasn’t that mentioned in the welcome letter?) (yes, it was) It was at this point that I knew I had been taken advantage of and I needed to stop.
Doug texted back a couple of times asking why I hadn’t completed the deal. I no longer responded. What I did do in a futile effort was take screenshots of ALL evidence.
-the bank transactions-Venmo transactions-their contact information-the copy of the contract I sighed (fake contract)-a copy of every email and text message that passed between us, including their fake website page. -I emailed Stop Online Puppy Mills for information on what to do in this case. I reached out to the financial institutions to try and reclaim my lost funds. -I reported it to my local police station for investigation. I even emailed the FTC.
The police station called me back after a few weeks with their “investigation” and said there was nothing they could do to get my money back.
I started getting spam text messages and emails in unfathomable numbers. One text message appeared to have come from my banking institution with notification of theft and to call back immediately. Thinking this was real, I called back immediately just to have them ask me for my password. That first they would send me a text with a new password for which I needed to respond. Then change my password and give it to them. Right?!?!
Pretty ingenious, but I knew what was happening at this point. That’s when I knew I needed to change banks and change phone numbers because the thieves who had walked off with my money also sold my information leaving me wide open to all scammers everywhere. I didn’t change my email, but I did make an alias.
Don’t let this happen to you. Listen to your instincts, they are there for a reason.