(WSVN) - The pandemic has brought a lot of loneliness and heartache. To have a little companionship, some people are shopping for puppies online, but the internet is fertile ground for fraudsters. Karen Hensel has tonight’s 7 Investigates.

They are cute, lovable, four-legged friends that are helping a lot of people through the isolation of the pandemic.

Lisa Kirby, puppy scam victim: “I was looking for a second French bulldog online.”

Lisa Kirby was looking for a new companion, not just for her, but for her dog Phoebe, who had gotten used to her being home.

Lisa Kirby: “I knew once I had to go back out with business starting up, she was not able to be home alone.”

But instead of getting a new dog, Lisa fell victim to a pandemic puppy scam.

Lisa Kirby: “I was frustrated, very disappointed and deflated.”

It started when Lisa saw Sugarpie on this website listing puppies for sale.

It described Sugarpie as “gentle, playful, affectionate.”

Lisa fell in love and paid a $1,500 deposit with her credit card.

She was told to meet the seller in this Davie parking lot to pick up her pup.

Turns out the parking lot is in the same strip mall as a pet store, and that’s when this puppy purchase started to unravel.

Lisa Kirby: “He swore that he was there. He did not see me. Then, it changed to his wife was in the parking lot looking for me.”

The fake seller sent Lisa a picture of a driver’s license, telling her she should look for this woman named Sherry.

Even texting her this incomplete sentence, “Have you seen a lady from the ID at the parking?”

Lisa did not, so she went into the pet store Tea Cups Puppies & Boutique to see if they had any answers.

Denise Bierkle says her business is being used to bait unsuspecting victims.

Denise Bierkle, pet store co-owner: “They go to pick up their puppies here at our business only to find out that the puppy is not here, and that they’ve been scammed.”

Lisa Kirby: “You just lose that family member that you never got to meet.”

And Lisa is not alone.

Davie Police reports show the same website has lured several others to this parking lot, using what, police say, is a stolen Mississippi driver’s license.

It’s the same ID sent to Lisa.

Denise says the victims include an elderly man who came in with his nurse’s aide.

Denise Bierkle: “He was with an assistant because he was not quite able to walk. He had a hard time health-wise.”

Heartbroken, he left without the chihuahua he thought he was taking home.

Denise Bierkle: “They take our photos off of our website. They present themselves as us, and then, of course, disappoint many people.”

So Denise tried to catch the scammer herself, texting “I am interested in Fiji the French bulldog. What do we do next?”

After requesting a $900, the scammer sent Denise to the same Davie parking lot where her own store is located!

And, we found some of these pictures on the website are actually taken from other websites, including this one claiming to be the puppy breeders.

It’s actually a picture of the staff at a vet clinic in South Carolina.

The vet clinic is outraged and told us they have nothing to do with the website.

7 Investigates also tracked down several phone numbers connected to the website.

Karen Hensel (leaving a message): “Hi, I’d like to talk to you about some of the puppies that you have for sale.”

No one returned our calls.

As for Lisa, she ended up finding her second dog.

Lisa Kirby: “I just love this breed. They’re not barkers or yippers, but they just make you laugh all the time, as you can tell.”

Lisa did get her money back, but only because she used a credit card. Meanwhile, the Davie pet store has this warning at the top of their website: “Beware of scammers using our photos, logo and address.”

We have more tips on how not to get scammed down below.

Better Business Bureau

Pet Scams

Florida Attorney General Pet Consumer Alert

Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information


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