By Jessica Mathews /

Livingston County residents and others across the state are being urged to beware of puppy scams as many people seek to purchase or adopt dogs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given the increased number of those staying at home during the ongoing public health emergency, many are turning to the internet to adopt a pet for companionship. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and the Humane Society of the United States are urging consumers to be aware of scams. The Attorney General’s Office says it has seen a surge in complaints of internet scammers exploiting the situation and several Michiganders have recently been tricked into paying for pets that don’t exist. Since the thieves are often outside the country, officials say the prospects of getting money back are extremely low.

Attorney General Dana Nessel says while many people may be eager to bring home a puppy during the pandemic, she urges people to be vigilant in their search to avoid being scammed. In addition to the deceptive practices of advertising puppies that do not exist or charging exorbitant fees, scammers are also said to be using the pandemic as a reason to avoid in-person visits and demand additional fees. A press release states that each year, consumers in the U.S. spend more than $1 billion buying puppies without realizing they may be doing business with scammers, puppy mill operators or both. Since 2018, the Attorney General has received nearly 50 complaints of alleged puppy scams – with 26 of those complaints in this year alone. Various tips are being provided tips to help consumers spot and avoid puppy scams. More information is provided in the attached press release.