Andrew and Rochelle Dallons were so excited to find their forever home in Leesburg, Virginia, in February 2019. But four months after moving in, Rochelle says their tranquil life was suddenly thrust into chaos when a couple knocked on the door and said they were there to pick up a puppy.
The Dallons told them they didn’t have any puppies. The couple assumed they had the wrong address and left.
“We didn’t think anything of it until a couple of weeks later another couple came to the door,” Rochelle said. That’s when they realized their address was being used to pull off a puppy scam.
Victim after victim continued to show up. “At least 24 to 25 people, and they’re from all over the place,” Rochelle said.
Faith McCreary drove to Leesburg from Mount Airy, North Carolina, after falling in love with a puppy she found online. She says nothing seemed off about the website.
“It looked legitimate. They had several different pictures of puppies,” Faith said.
Faith had a few conversations with the seller via text and email and felt comfortable enough to send a deposit of $250 through a peer-to-peer cash payment app. But when she arrived at the address she was given, Rochelle broke the news to her.
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The Dallons eventually posted a sign on their front door to alert people who showed up for their puppy that they’ve been scammed.
The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the case and determining whether it’s related to a similar complaint at another home in the county. Both houses were vacant and for sale around the same time.
“So you can find out through an online realtor what house is for sale or what house is in foreclosure,” Sheriff Mike Chapman said. “And the people that want to conduct a scam can identify that home as a supposed pick-up place to pick up a puppy.”
In all of the cases, the victims paid the scammer through cash payment apps, some as much as $1,200. Detectives are using that information to try to track down the accounts.
The Dallons say people are still showing up looking for their puppies, and they’re worried that someday, someone may not be so understanding to learn there isn’t one.
“We wonder if somebody, if it’s going to be the last straw for somebody, and they’re going to, it’s a security issue,” said Andrew Dallons.
Here are 4 Things to Know to avoid getting scammed:
- Research the breeder. Don’t trust the reviews on their website alone since it could be a fake. And consider using a breeder who’s registered with the American Kennel Club.
- Once you find a puppy, do a reverse image search to see if the same pictures are being used on different sites. We did this and found the same puppies on several sites with different names and genders.
- Beware of a breeder who only communicates via text or email. If you do speak to them on the phone remember, they can spoof the number to make it look like they’re calling from where they claim they are.
- Beware of a seller insisting you pay with cash. The best way to protect your money is to use a credit card.