ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – There’s a consumer alert after a St. Augustine woman said she was duped out of thousands of dollars. This happened after she tried to buy a Chihuahua online.

The St. Augustine woman said she went to She picked out “Otis” and was told to wire $500 for the dog. The company then asked her to wire nearly $800 more for special transportation and $1,300 for medical shots.

Then, the company asked for money again and threatened to call the police on her. That’s when she became suspicious and called the Sheriff’s Office.

The woman was upset and did not want to speak on camera. But the owner of a local pet shop told News4Jax that this happens more than you might think. Here are some signs to look out for.

What you must know before you buy a Chihuahua online

“Online, you are just looking at a picture, or they may have a video or something. But there’s never any way that you can touch the animals. And, you can get excited and see it,” said Danny Conlin, the owner of Pet World St. Augustine.

According to Conlin, that key factor is the most important when buying a new pet. He has owned Pet World St. Augustine for more than 30 years.

He said going to a store, to a breeder, or visiting a shelter not only allows you to see the animal for yourself. But, it also protects you from being a part of a scam similar to this one. 

Conlin told News4Jax on Wednesday that these are scams that are all too familiar to him.

“My friend almost got scammed buying a dog recently. People wanted him to send money, and then he told them, ‘No. I’ll drive there.’ It’s a 10-hour drive, and as soon as he told them that, they lost contact,” he said. 

Conlin said seeing the pet in person is the only way to protect yourself.

“Also, when you buy a Chihuahua online, you don’t physically see the animals. So, you can’t really assess the animal’s health,” Conlin said. “And you can’t see the adults often, where the animal came from.”

According to the Better Business Bureau, if you’re asked to make a wire transfer, that raises a red flag because those are nearly impossible to trace.

The Best Bet for Protecting Yourself

The local BBB offered these tips to protect yourself when buying a pet online:

  • Consider adopting or buying locally.
  • Don’t be swayed by a fancy website.
  • Make sure the price makes sense.
  • Never send, wire or use a money card to pre-pay people you have not met.
  • Beware of emails with multiple misspellings and grammatical errors.
  • Research the seller and obtain references.
  • Ask for medical records and pedigree.
  • Verify information.

If you come across a potential pet scam during your search, report it to BBB Scam Tracker to warn others.

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