Daily Local News (West Chester, PA)
Sending money for a cute puppy on Facebook may come back to bite you
Who can resist cute puppies on social media?
One Upland resident couldn’t and it came back to bite her in the wallet.
In November, Susan Raikowski saw a post on a Collingdale community Facebook page about a litter of adorable miniature dachshund puppies that a woman needed to find homes for “due to circumstances.”
The woman, identified on the post as Pearls Nicole, told Raikowski that she used to live in Collingdale but had moved away and that is why she is on the page.
“I’m thinking I want to do this. I want this puppy and I’m thinking it’s someone from
Collingdale. She sent me over a contract and everything,” Raikowski recalled. “I’m thinking everything is OK. I needed to send her $350 (on Venmo).”
The woman told Raikowski the money was to pay for shots, canine distemper and health fees for the puppy.
The next morning at 6:30 in the morning Pearls told her she needed the final $300 before she could deliver the dog.
“I knew right away I got scammed,” Raikowski said.
When she went back to the Facebook page it had been deleted.
Raikowski notified Upland police of the scam and said she is trying to warn other animal lovers to be aware of the scam because since then she has seen the same post on other Facebook social media sites using the same photograph.
Raikowski said Venmo was unhelpful in the theft but her local police had given the theft lots of attention and even found where the scammers live.
Upland police Detective Andrew Nicholl said police performed a search warrant on the Venmo records and they were able to see other incoming payments to the same seller.
“Hers was for Darcy, and you could see other incoming Venmos from other people for Darcy, and also Lily, Lily, Lily, Darcy, Lily and Darcy,” Nicholl said. “We got a search warrant for the bank account records to confirm the identity that the Venmo was sending to. It was the same person.”
Nicholl said the scammers also used Paypal and Apple
Pay to steal money for puppies that were not delivered.
The detective urged residents that when they buy something online such as a dog from an unknown seller to use caution, and not to just send money through apps such as Venmo.
“Meet up in a public place, a police station, take someone with you and make sure the goods are still available. Then once you receive the goods then send your payment, not beforehand to someone on Facebook,” he said. “Don’t send any deposit without knowing the dog is real, the item is real, the person is real.”
Police say the scammers are James and Sherrie Wheeler of Aurora, Colorado. Police have a warrant out for them.
For Raikowski, the story has a happy ending. Instead of relying on social media she went to Providence Animal Shelter in Upper Providence looking for a small dog.
“We’re looking and this dog looks me in the eye,” she said.
She screamed to her husband Tom: “Come here, I found him.” But it wasn’t a little dog. “He’s going to be bigger
than my other two dogs but you know he just got my heart. His name is Ollie. He’s such a wonderful dog,” she said. “It was never about the money, it was the dog. We’re big animal lovers. We have cats, too.”