Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

Pet Scams are Big Business

Online con artists see opportunity in the pandemic demand for animals

spinner image Episode 81 - Pet Scams are Big Business - org

Subscribe or Follow:   Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn

spinner image Quote card for Episode 81
Full Transcript

[00:00:00] Bob: This week on The Perfect Scam

[00:00:02] There is a lot of demand for pets right now and not that much supply, and that just drives more and more people into the hands of scammers, unfortunately.


[00:00:15] Bob: I have a dog named Rusty. (audio insert-"Oh, he's so cute.") I'm on my third rescue dog now. Lucky, Rusty's older brother, played a big part in a lot of stories I've written, so I was really excited to talk with today's guests, Danny and Alison, about their beloved pets. I love pet adoption stories. The love of a pet is really something special. The fact that this amazing love gets taken advantage of, is exploited by criminals, well that just makes me eye-popping angry. And right now, a lot of circumstances have aligned that seem to make pet crimes, well, the perfect scam.


[00:00:56] Bob: The Better Business Bureau says reports of pet scams are up six-fold since they last studied the problem in 2017, and they expect US losses to top 3 million dollars this year. Why the huge spike? Many people stuck at home during the pandemic have decided it's the perfect time to welcome a new puppy, any new pet, into their homes. So thankfully, shelters and breeders are running out of adoptable pets. But that has pushed some would-be adopters to extremes to find a pet to love and well, that's where the scammers come in. People like Danny and Alison are more willing to get their pets online now from far away, and stiff competition adds to the urgency, making them likely to pay with a digital service like Zelle. That means no refunds if something goes wrong as it often does.


[00:01:49] Bob: Have you had dogs, have you had pets your whole life?

[00:01:51] Danny: I had them all, the whole time growing up. We kind of lived on a farm and had all kinds of animals during that time. I was in the military for 21 years in air traffic.

[00:02:01] Bob: Danny Shelton spent most of his life around animals. He's in Illinois now, near St. Louis, but even traveling around the world with the military, he always had a big family dog.

[00:02:12] Danny Shelton: The first one we had was Otto. He was the biggest, fattest puppy of the group. He was a pain in the behind, and we were going overseas to and from, and he weighed 110 pounds, and then with the box that you have to, you know, travel in, that uh was expensive, 'cause he had to go as freight. But you know we took him wherever we wanted to go.

[00:02:34] Bob: After traveling with the military for 21 years, Danny and his wife, Heidi, moved back to the states with Otto, but Otto passed away from cancer soon after. The family was broken-hearted and not sure they could love another dog again. So they held out for a while, but the pull for canine companionship was just too strong.

[00:02:54] Danny Shelton: So I made it two years, and I found Lois was my second, uh Weimaraner, and the lady was two hours, 2½ hours away. Found her on the internet, and called her up, and she said, "Yeah, I've got a bunch of puppies. If you want to come over here and uh and take a look." And so I went over there, and she must have had 7 or 8 puppies. And I said, "Do I just pick one or what? And she said, "You hear this thing coming down the hallway?" And it was like a, a Clydesdale clumpety-clumpety-clumpety, and this dog comes sliding in dragging a, a baby green blanket there. And she said, "That's your dog." So um, I had Lois...

[00:03:34] Bob: (chuckling) That's fantastic.

[00:03:35] Danny Shelton: ... uh for 8 years. Great dog. Best dog that we've ever had.

[00:03:39] Bob: After about 8 years, Lois died of cancer too, and Danny said to himself, that's it. No more heartbreak, never again. Until his daughter in Iowa called him right before he was about to head there for a family reunion.

[00:03:53] Danny Shelton: "Hey Dad, the lady down the street has Weimaraner puppies. Do you want me to check and see if she has any?" I says, "Yeah, I'm going to be up there anyway." She ended up contacting the lady, and she had two, two puppies left, I think it was. I wanted a female and I, I couldn't remember if they had both males or one of each, one of the other, so she said, "Yeah, I'll, I'll contact her. They're about $700," which is the going rate for a Weimaraner puppy anyway, and I said, "All right. Well, I'll be up there, and I will um, I'll surprise Mom when I bring this thing home," because she was uh working in, in retail and couldn't get off. So I was the one going to uh represent the family.

[00:04:37] Bob: There were hundreds of miles of anticipation on the drive from Illinois to Iowa; it was going to be the best kind of surprise for Heidi, but...

[00:04:46] Danny Shelton: So I, I get up there, and um, it's kind of late and the next day we went, and the lady said, "I'm sorry, but my husband, you know, promised this dog to somebody else and they're going to buy it," and, "We'll have another litter of puppies around end of the year or whatever." And uh my daughter said, "Well why don't you just look online, Dad?"

[00:05:06] Bob: After all that anticipation and yet, more heartbreak, why not look online? Danny had already bought one dog, Lois, online, so he took a break from the reunion and scanned the internet. He found an adorable puppy right away.

[00:05:20] Danny Shelton: The dog's name was London. It had like a, a little Christmas uh, hat that uh was on it. It was just setting on just like a, you know a little table or something there, and he had five or six pictures of others, and just take your pick of whichever, and I was just like, that, that's what we want. I've already bought one on the, you know, on the internet, but I bought it by paying cash in person to a, a person that had the puppies there.

[00:05:49] Bob: He called the number on the website and a man answering the phone said London was actually in the Atlanta area. And to Danny's relief, London was still for sale.

[00:05:58] Danny Shelton: Yeah, "We have a female, uh, $700. We will uh fly her by airlines out of Atlanta over to uh St. Louis and you can uh, you can pick her up." And I said, "Well that, that's sounds cool." And he said, "Well you need to, you need to hurry 'cause, you know, there's a lot of people that's, you know, in interest of this." So I normally will go and research, I will over research something, you know, just, especially for a purchase that high. I, I just, it was like a, a, I don't know, a moment in time that I said, well you know what, the guy's got what we want, and he will send it in a couple of days. By that time I'll be back home, and I can go pick this thing up, I can surprise my wife with it. And the guy says, "All right, well here's the bill of sale." So everything looks legitimate. Bill of sale, everything signed, names, all of this stuff, all he needs is the money and I wired it through uh one of the MoneyGrams out of Walmart.

[00:06:59] Bob: Driving home from the family reunion, he figured the timing would be right to pick up the dog from the airport and surprise his wife. His daughter kept pestering him for pictures. But then...

[00:07:10] Bob: Danny Shelton: The next thing you know is I'm coming back from Iowa, driving home, and I get a text message from this guy and said, "Hey, there's a problem with this puppy at the airport in Atlanta. They're either going to quarantine it here or quarantine it in St. Louis because they have to feed it, take care of it, make sure the shots, all of this stuff is going on, no rabies and this and that. It's going to be about another four or five hundred dollars." And I just pulled off the road at the next rest area, and in my mind, I already knew this was BS.

[00:07:45] Bob: First the heartbreak of losing a dog to cancer. Then Danny had a puppy slip right out of his hands in Iowa, and now this.

[00:07:54] Danny Shelton: I, I was just reading the text, and I just, I started shaking because I started getting so mad, and I said, this really, this really can't be happening. I, I need to talk to this guy, and if it's a matter of me driving from St. Louis to Atlanta to pick up a puppy, that, that's not a problem. But what it's looking like to me, he's talking about customs and, and that is totally wrong.


[00:08:29] Bob: Moving is stressful enough, but when you're moving during a pandemic, and one of your two cats is deathly ill, well that's overwhelming. Alison Blackman had lived in Brooklyn most of her life, in fact, she lived in a rather magical part of Brooklyn, near the Promenade, a place many people know because of a famous movie, "Moonstruck."

[00:08:50] Alison Blackman: Well it also takes place all around the neighborhood. It's beautiful, you can see all of the uh New York skyline. From my roof deck, you could see every bridge in New York, but from the Promenade, you could see, you know, the Empire State Building lit up, and all the boats in the harbor, and the bridges, and it's, and the Brooklyn Bridge which is famous, and it was beautiful. I mean I loved it there. I didn't leave because I hated Brooklyn.

[00:09:19] Bob: But the lure of the chance to live on a beach in Florida was just too strong, especially when the pandemic made life in New York City so difficult. So she made plans to move with her husband of 30 years, John Dunham, and her two Maine Coon cats, Nike and Bob Marley.

[00:09:35] Alison Blackman: Well, Bob Marley was a rescue who was so fearful and, and abused that the only thing he seemed to like is when I sang the song, "Three Little Birds," you know, don't worry about a thing.

[00:09:48] Bob: Oh my god.

[00:09:48] Alison Blackman: And so, we called him Bob Marley. (laugh)

[00:09:51] Bob: Maine Coons are a very special breed of cat.

[00:09:54] Alison Blackman: Maine Coons are the only true American breed of cat. They're big, and they're hunters. They, they really were called Maine Coons, I guess because they would go in the snow and they could hunt things and they're big cats. Big Maine Coons are the size of medium-sized dogs, and they're dog-like. They'll follow you around, they're very personable and sweet. Nike's just a small one. And we didn't know she'd be small, so she just didn't grow into her tail. She has a big tail.

[00:10:27] Bob: So Nike and Bob Marley were a great pair, but when the move came, Bob Marley just couldn't make it.

[00:10:34] Alison Blackman: He died the day before we had to move to Florida. Um, we didn't realize that he had cancer, and he was suffering, and we, we could have taken him, but he probably wouldn't have made the trip, and I don't, I've had cats since I was two years old, at least two of them, and I, I couldn't let him suffer. So he literally was put to sleep to go over the rainbow bridge the day before we left, which definitely didn't quell any of our stress.


[00:11:04] Bob: When the family got to Florida, Nike just couldn't adjust.

[00:11:08] Alison Blackman: We moved with Nike. We got her down here, and she immediately was sick. I mean some of it was grief, and some of it, I don't know, but I'd never seen a cat this sick, and we kept taking her to the vet. And nothing was helping. Nothing. And I thought we were going to lose her. I mean mean--, meanwhile it's a big change to be down in a place where you really don't know anyone, and your cat's just died, you've got to put your cat to sleep and the other one looks like it's going too.

[00:11:39] Bob: Poor Nike. Nike, all the familiar surroundings were gone, and her best friend was gone, right?

[00:11:42] Alison Blackman: Right, she had to go on a two--, two-day car ride. And we stopped overnight, but we drove down, so she had to go without her friend, and she had to go in a car for a long period of time, although she was, she came out overnight, but and then she got to a place that's much bigger and didn't smell like anything she knew, didn't have a friend to commune with, and she got sick, I think it was, you know, I mean cats have feelings. All animals do. Oh, it was terrifying. I mean I love my, my pets, and she was really suffering.

[00:12:19] Bob: So...

[00:12:19] Alison Blackman: She was lonely, and she was sick.

[00:12:22] Bob: So you think which makes sense to me, you think I need to get her another best friend, right?

[00:12:27] Alison Blackman: We tried everything; I mean literally everything. Every food we could think of, multiple, you know, trips to the vet, and I really felt that I just needed to get her another Maine Coon to keep her company. And I wanted to keep, to get another one, another purebred, because it's her tribe, but there were no cats or kittens available anywhere because during this pandemic people are rescuing pets, and they're buying them. And there literally were none. So, you know, everybody else is lonely too.

[00:13:00] Bob: Horrified at the idea that she would lose both her beloved pets so quickly, Alison was desperate. She tried the usual channels for getting Nike a new friend, but during the pandemic, shelters and catteries were overwhelmed. So, she turned to the internet.

[00:13:16] Alison Blackman: I did. I went online and I, I have to just digress for a minute. You can cut this out if you want, but I am a huge fan of your podcast, and I have been listening to it for years. I've read Frank Abagnale's book, and I listened to all of his advice, you know, and then I, I didn’t follow any of his advice. I was out in what Frank Abagnale calls the ether because of all of this stuff going on. And then you just don't think straight. But anyway, I did go on the internet and as a responsible person, I looked for reliable cat breeders. I went to their website and they had a variety of kittens, and that should have been my first clue that something was wrong because no reputable breeder, when there are no kittens to be had anywhere, has many of them in a variety of different types, because they don't breed them that way. You can't get calicos, black and whites, truer whites, tabbies from one liter or even two. But the two cat fancier organizations, including the International Cat Fanciers' Association, had certificates on her site, they had used her logo.

[00:14:26] Bob: Alison was immediately smitten with a tiny, precious kitten named Lucky. Lucky was black and brown and white with piercing green eyes. So she contacted the website owner, and the woman who replied said she'd been breeding Maine Coons for 20 years.

[00:14:43] Alison Blackman: I looked at this kitten, I said, this is for me. And everything seemed reasonable, because I had checked with both cat fancier organizations, and uh, I saw the logos and certificates.

[00:14:55] Bob: Cat fancier organizations keep a registry of pedigree cats and can help people find reputable catteries. But of course, anyone can put a logo on a website.

[00:15:05] Alison Blackman: I didn't realize, of course, you could forge them. But anyway I assumed that, that she was sanctioned by both groups, and my husband and I agreed we should go ahead and purchase this little kitten, Lucky, this calico kitten.

[00:15:19] Bob: Alison had already picked out a name for Nike's new best friend.

[00:15:22] Alison Blackman: Okay, everything's fine, we're going to do this, we've discussed it. I'm so excited and we're picking names. We're going to call him Adonis.

[00:15:30] Bob: They agreed on a price, $1200. And the breeder insisted on getting the money quickly through Zelle.

[00:15:37] Alison Blackman: And I hadn't used it before, but the payment didn't go through, and that should have been red flag number three. Um, by the way, the cost was $1200, but okay, that's not so much really for a purebred kitten, particularly in times of where there aren't many to be had. So I sent the money to her son, and the payment went through. But the minute that I sent the money, I just knew something wasn't right. I just knew it. I think possibly because I read Frank's book, and, and I listen to The Perfect Scam podcast. I was so intent on helping Nike to get her a friend, and because we were lonely too, that I ignored all of these signs of a scam.


[00:16:26] I've got a banker's box full of materials, and of course, tons of stuff on my hard drive. I've collected on this stuff, and so it's a, it's a big issue.

[00:16:35] Bob: Danny and Alison, they're hardly alone. Puppy scams have exploded during the pandemic, and it's not just puppy scams. Twelve percent of pet scam complaints to the Better Business Bureau were about kittens or cats last year. And the Federal Trade Commission says it received 185 reports of parrots being ordered, but not delivered, during the first half of 2020. But who are these con artists? Is it an individual, a network of international criminals? How does it work, and why is it so successful? I called an old friend from the Federal Trade Commission, Steve Baker, who now works for the Better Business Bureau, to see what's going on. He lives outside St. Louis, not too far from Danny. He explains how these scams work, who's running them, and why they've become such a big problem lately.

[00:17:20] Steve Baker: Okay, so the scammers have a pet, photo of a pet, description posted online, somebody sees it. They think they're interested. They reach out, contact them. A, a lot of the time it's, that's through uh text messages or emails. People say sure the pet's available; they answer any questions you've got.

[00:17:40] Bob: The one thing they can't do, they can't let you visit the pet. So, they make sure it's a long distance sale. That might normally arouse suspicion, but remember, during the pandemic, plenty of people are getting pets from far away.

[00:17:54] Steve Baker: Since they're physically distant, you've not only got to pay for the pet, you've got to pay for shipping the pet to your location. They're not going to let you come and inspect it in person. So people send some money for the initial payment for the pet. Then they need money for airfare for the pet, and if people send that, then they're going to come back with a request for more money.

[00:18:15] Bob: And if that works, well they just keep on going, asking for more money.

[00:18:19] Steve Baker: And in the last year there's a lot of people that are, you know, special shots or vaccines or a COVID-compliant crate, whatever the heck that is, that's supposedly going to be refunded at the, once you receive your pet. And if you send the money for that, then there's special shots. Or if the puppy's problem has risen at, at an airport, and the puppy's stuck, and you need money, send money for food and stuff for the puppy. And the worst thing is, if you figure out, and once you do figure out it's a scam, eventually, they tell you that the puppy is like stuck at an airport, and they're going to report you to the FBI for animal abandonment for not sending more money for the puppy, which, of course, they never do since they're crooks. But nobody wants to be reported to the FBI, and of course, the FBI would never take on a case like this.

[00:19:09] Bob: Pet scams aren't new, but complaints about them are skyrocketing.

[00:19:14] Steve Baker: Well, a lot of it's due to the pandemic. There are people that have been kind of confined at home without much, and they're looking for some companionship. There's also people that are now working at home with their families and if they're thinking about, would this be a good time to add a pet to the family if we're around all the time and don't have to worry about being gone during the day. So there's several reasons people have decided that this is a great time to add a puppy or other pet to their lives, and of course, people do what they do, uh these days, they go online, and they look for a puppy. And unfortunately, the internet is just saturated with fake ads for puppies that, from photos that have been taken from other sites, and the puppies don't really exist, or at least not from the people advertising them. I don't think you can get online these days and look for a puppy without coming across a scam, no matter where you kind of go online to look.

[00:20:08] Bob: The scam is so widespread that an earlier study Steve did, found that about 80% of the ads people encounter when searching for pets online are fake.

[00:20:19] Bob: How much do people typically...

[00:20:20] Steve Baker: They just keep draining money from people as long as they can do it. How much? Well, this year it looks like the average amount lost, the median is about just over $1000, and over the last two or three years it's like 870, but that's a lot of money, especially for families. Um, I talked to one woman who's a single mom, getting by paycheck on paycheck, and they not only cleaned her out, she'd also borrowed more money from family members, which she was not able to pay back. So, I mean the, the financial hit can be really significant for people. And in addition to the financial damage from these things, a lot of people are really emotionally devasted.

[00:21:00] Bob: It's that emotional component which makes these scams so effective. Danny, who had just opened up his broken heart to getting a new dog, Alison trying to save her lonely cat's life, it's important to understand the role vulnerability plays in these scams. Steve says that while all kinds of pets; cats, birds, reptiles are used in fake ads, the vast majority of scams involve puppy ads.

[00:21:25] Steve Baker: The crooks know the most popular breeds that people are looking for, and the most common are French Bulldogs, Yorkshire Terriers, Huskies. I've seen a fair amount of Corgis, uh, the last couple of years, but, you know, since you don't actually have to have the thing at all, you can invent any breed you want. But they know what people are looking for, and those are the ones they exploit a lot of the time.

[00:21:50] Bob: They also know the right payment methods to exploit.

[00:21:53] Steve Baker: Zelle and CashApp. Zelle, I know you know a great deal about already. CashApp is, you know, works similarly once you have sent the money; it's effectively gone and not recoverable basically with both of those systems, which the crooks know, and regular consumers often do not. We used to say that they don't take credit cards, and they still don't have an ability to process credit cards, but the scammers, over the last couple of years, have started putting in forms, you can enter a credit card number, and then of course it's automatically gets the clients since they have no access to the banking system. But having gone through that, what they're able to do then is steal your credit card number and use that to purchase websites and domain names or hosting or other things that cost money that are needed to support the scam and keep it going.

[00:22:45] Bob: And they've also got you one more step hooked, right? They're like, oh, sorry the credit card didn't work. Maybe you can use another method, right?

[00:22:52] Steve Baker: Well exactly. Then they tell you to use another method, which is mainly Zelle, CashApp, of course MoneyGram and Western Union have been very popular standbys for the crooks, but after a law enforcement action by the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission against both Western Union and MoneyGram, those companies have made real efforts to tighten up their systems and protect people.

[00:23:16] Bob: Make no mistake, these are professional criminals, international organized crime rings, Steve says.

[00:23:22] Steve Baker: The people behind this looks like these are organized gangs operating out of the country in Cameroon in West Africa, shares a border with Nigeria, and they have, these are big, organized crime operations, and I'm sure they've subdivided the roles, that there are people that build the websites, there are people that find the pictures, there are people that transport the money. There's a whole ton of money mules that are used for a whole lot of scams to kind of handle the in between, and you know, you would hope that you could at least catch some of them and make them stop. And even better, tell you who they're working for so you could actually do some, some effective law enforcement.

[00:24:00] Bob: Money mules accept payments on behalf of scammers, and then relay the money to them. Mules are often in the US and help scammers get around bank rules that make it harder to move cash from the US to overseas financial institutions. Steve says there are many things consumers can do to protect themselves. The absolute best thing is to see the puppy in person. And sellers should allow you to do that, even with COVID. And there's a few other tips that Steve has.

[00:24:27] Steve Baker: A lot of people don't realize that you can do an internet search of a photo. Google Chrome allows it. There's also a site called TinEye that lets you save and search for photos, and a lot of the times since the crooks are using the same photos time after time, I have seen photos of cute puppies that have shown up over five years in half a dozen different countries. You can do that. Or you can take a line from the text of the description; "Fluffy has a quick step and bright eyes," something like that that's slightly unusual phrasing and run that and see if it doesn't show up in another scam. There's a place called, it's a volunteer group that helps with these things. A lot of the time you can search the bogus websites on there. They try to identify them. And finally, a lot of people are now used to using Zoom or other video conference apps, and you can certainly ask the scammer, tell them you would like to do a Zoom call with them and the puppy. No scammer is ever going to be able to do that, obviously they don't want to do that. And so that's another way to test. But really seeing it in person is absolutely the best thing to do.

[00:25:34] Bob: You know, you know, it's hard right now, because there, there really is this shortage of, of puppies and an--, animals in general for you to adopt. So people are going to more and more extremes to get them, which opens the door.

[00:25:46] Steve Baker: That's right. I mean and, of course, the scammers know that, and they're taking advantage of that. But ah, you can also check out if it's a supposed pet breeder, you can check them out at, um, and see, a lot of the time these bogus, fake breeders will have complaints on file with the Better Business Bureau you can look at online and maybe smoke something out that way. But it's, it's tough. There's a lot of demand for pets right now, and not that much supply. And that just drives more and more people into the hands of scammers, unfortunately.

[00:26:23] Bob: There have been a few law enforcement actions against pet scammers since the Better Business Bureau's previous study was issued in 2017. In the US, a man was arrested in Minnesota for pet fraud, in December 2019. In Canada, a woman was arrested for puppy fraud in Waterloo, Ontario, on September 2020, and a Newfoundland woman was recently sentenced to 33 months in prison for this fraud.


[00:26:51] Bob: But fortunately, Danny's story didn't end with the $700 he lost trying to buy a puppy named London. The Iowa breeder near Danny's daughter, well she heard about what happened and reserved a puppy for Danny from her very next litter. In fact, she felt so bad, she tried to give it to Danny for free, but he wouldn't accept that. He did have a lot of fun picking out his new dog at the farm in Iowa, however.

[00:27:15] Bob: Danny Shelton: She took me out to the barn. She had two daughters that were like uh, four and, four and five years old, and it, it looked like 101 Dalmatians. They had two females that had puppies, and they were about 7, 8 weeks old, and they were, one had 13, and one had 11. And they were just running all over the place, and I said, "I want a female." And the little girls were going over and grabbing them, raise the tail up. "No, this one's a boy." Putting it in a different part of the barn there. And one of them, all of a sudden came over, and just set on my feet, and I said, "Well is this a female?" So I picked it up, and it was. I said, "You know what, this is, this is my dog. She picked me, and there you go." So that was uh, she just had a birthday uh back in October, November-ish, three years. She's three years old now. Her name is Yolo, which stands for You Only Live Once, and she's always getting into stuff, doing stuff. So she'll be lucky if she makes it through once, and she's three years old. She's a blue Weimaraner, which basically is a blacker than black, but the same temperament as a, as a Weimaraner. Can’t be, uh, you know, left alone. Has to be with you in your lap, putting, you know, and she's 70, 75 pounds. And when I went up there, the lady felt so bad at, at what had happened, and she had basically told me, "Well you know what, I'll, I'll give you one for free." Okay, my dog just knocked the phone off. You still there?

[00:28:55] Bob: (chuckling) I'm still here. That's perfectly appropriate though.

[00:28:58] Danny Shelton: She was trying to get in my lap, then she's like, who you talking to? So she knocked the phone off. So um, she said, "I'll, I'll basically just let you have one."

[00:29:06] Bob: Yolo, it seems, has to be a part of everything. Alison and Nike have a happy ending too.

[00:29:13] Alison Blackman: So in the end, I went to the Maine Coon Rescue of Florida, which is where I'm living, and found a cat that is not a Maine Coon, but his name is Carl. He's black and white. He's adorable. He and Nike get along. She gained her weight back, and both of them are happy and healthy and we love them both. Nike gained back all her weight, and she has a new friend, and he licks her face which she sometimes lets him do, and she's fine. She was perfectly fine all along; she was just in the ether too. So for me it's, it's, it's my dream come true, really. So the story has a happy ending in, in many ways. But I wake up in the morning and the first thing I see is sunshine, and I look out the window when I'm still sleeping kind of, and there's the ocean and the beach, and sometimes you see a dolphin or a sailboat, and I'll get out of bed and I'll get my coffee, and I'll look at the ocean. Carl usually sleeps on the kitchen table, which he shouldn't, but look out at the sea, and Nike usually sits on the couch. She's happily scratching, so we're going to have to redo it. It kind of came with the apartment. And then I do my work. I'm a writer, so I go to my desk which does not face the ocean, or I'd never get any work done, and then I usually around 3 o'clock when the sun is going down a little bit, my husband and I, we'll walk on the beach and collect shells. I take pictures of the birds and the ocean, and we've made new friends here and uh it's, it's a lovely life.


[00:30:59] Bob: If you or someone you know has been a victim of a fraud or scam, call AARP's free Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360. Their trained fraud specialists can help you know what to do next and how to avoid scams in the future. Thank you to our team of scambusters; Executive Producer, Julie Getz; Producer, Brook Ellis; Associate Producer and Researcher, Megan DeMagnus; our Audio Engineer, Julio Gonzalez; and of course, Fraud Expert, Frank Abagnale. Be sure to find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. For AARP's The Perfect Scam, I'm Bob Sullivan.



Danny searches for a new four-legged best friend after his beloved Weimaraner dies of cancer. Alison looks for a second Maine coon to keep her current cat company after a difficult move. Both families find themselves caught in the web of online con artists riding the rising wave of pandemic demand for pets.

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership— $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine. Find out how much you could save in a year with a membership. Learn more.

Join Now

AARP’s Fraud Watch Network can help you spot and avoid scams. Sign up for free Watchdog Alerts, review our scam-tracking map, or call our toll-free fraud helpline at 877-908-3360 if you or a loved one suspect you’ve been a victim.

The Perfect ScamSM is a project of the AARP Fraud Watch Network, which equips consumers like you with the knowledge to give you power over scams.


How to listen and subscribe to AARP's podcasts

Are you new to podcasts? Learn how to subscribe to AARP Podcasts on any device.

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?

spinner image cartoon of a woman holding a megaphone

Have you seen this scam?

  • Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360 or report it with the AARP Scam Tracking Map.  
  • Get Watchdog Alerts for tips on avoiding such scams.