A Chicago couple is speaking out to warn consumers after their search for a new four-legged family member ended with no puppy and a financial loss.
Nicole Wilmet and her fiancé Martin Hughes were hoping to welcome a West Highland Terrier to their home.
“I grew up with a Westie. They’re incredible family dogs,” Wilmet said.
Wilmet and Hughes are both working from home and told NBC 5 it is a good time for them to commit to a dog.
“We don’t have to worry about the dog being alone,” Hughes said.
The couple was also hoping to find a Westie for Wilmet’s mother in Arizona.
Wilmet said they communicated with someone online who purported to be a breeder and eventually agreed to send $2,000 to cover the cost of two Westie puppies: Calley and Mally.
Calley would live with Wilmet and Hughes and Mally would live with Wilmet’s mother.
The recently-engaged Wilmet and Hughes paid the money over an online banking app.
“We were just so excited to be welcoming what we thought would be a new little girl to our home,” Wilmet said.
But they said they realized something was not right the day after they made the payment.
“I got a call from a phone number in Oklahoma telling me that he was calling me about the shipping of the dogs and that that shipment was on hold because we needed to buy additional insurance for the dogs,” Wilmet.
The dogs never arrived.
Wilmet said efforts to get their money back have failed and their bank is not helping.
“I feel like I’ve gone above and beyond what a normal individual would do,” Wilmet said. “Reporting to police and the FBI and staying on top of everything and just feeling like our voice wasn’t being heard.”
Hughes said he later performed an online search and found that the image of a man on the breeder’s website was the same as an image from a British news article.
The Better Business Bureau said reports of puppy scams are skyrocketing during the pandemic.
“Do some Google searches of the addresses. A lot of times they’re parking lots,” said Steve Bernas of the BBB in Chicago. “See how long they’ve been in business. Do some research. Ask for referrals. Just find out about them.”
The website listing the dogs has not returned NBC 5’s request for comment.
Wilmet and Hughes said they will keep looking for a dog from either a shelter or a recommended breeder.