By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The holiday season is the time of year when puppy sales spike. However, while your family may be looking to buy or adopt a furry friend, it’s also the time of year that scam artists are looking to make a quick buck.

Before Bo joined Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s family, his wife and kids had found another puppy online.

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“The gentleman was asking for money up front. When we followed up via email and asked for a copy of the contract, some photos of the dog, medical history, all of the things that reasonably are things that should be turned over to a would-be purchaser, the person refused to provide it,” Shapiro said. “He said, ‘We would be forced to pay a downpayment in order to get that information.’ So, quickly my A-G antenna went up and said, ‘This must be a scam.'”

In fact, the Better Business Bureau estimates more than three-quarters of the websites that advertise puppies for sale, aren’t real.

And that dog the Shapiro family was interested in?

“He was probably some clip art picture of a puppy and not a real puppy and thankfully we didn’t get scammed and, instead, we found Bo,” Shapiro said.

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Whether you’re buying a dog or adopting one, there are signs to look out for so you don’t get scammed. Among them include:

  • online ads offering too-good-to-be-true prices for popular breeds
  • being asked to pay for transportation costs by way of a wire transfer to a third party
  • and high-pressure sales tactics asking that money we sent immediately to reserve a puppy

“We just want Pennsylvanians to be careful, be vigilant and to be mindful of the fact that there are more scams than ever out there,” Shapiro said.

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