PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As some people look to add a pet to their family around the holidays, one local woman has a word of warning to watch out for your money and to be on the lookout for convincing scams.

Deborah Geiser of Hillsboro had her heart set on getting a teacup Yorkie. That particular breed can run as high as $5,000.

“I want a puppy so bad, but what do I do?” she wondered.

Like many people, Geiser turned to the internet for answers. Online, she found a pup for around $600.

After filling out the online form, Geiser immediately got a text from someone claiming to be the breeder. Following an initial payment, she started getting emails from the supposed transporter — saying there were unforeseen shipment costs.

First, it was an additional $810 for a crate. Next, it was $390 for an anti-pressure vaccine and another $400 for documents, followed by a $790 permit fee and an additional $790 for expired insurance, racking her bill up into the thousands.

“When the dog didn’t show up, that’s when I knew,” Geiser explained. “No, this is a scam, and they just want more money from me.”

Pet scams remain consistently profitable for scammers, in part because their multi-tiered setup allows them to convincingly go back to a consumer several times to ask for money.

“If you’re searching for a pet online, a lot of times you’re going to end up on a scam website,” the Better Business Bureau’s Rebecca Barr said.

In 2022 alone, the BBB reports Oregonians have lost nearly $23,000 to pet scams like Geiser’s.

“The best thing to do is if you do see a picture of a puppy or a cat that you’re looking to add to your family is do a reverse google image search for that photo and see if it’s ending up on other websites,” Barr explained. “Because that’s what con artists do.”

The BBB said individuals should meet the pet in person before paying, and if breeders are out of state, insist on doing a video call to ensure the pet is real.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Geiser said. “I mean, you just get your heart set on this one particular dog, and then it turns out that it doesn’t even exist.”

Fortunately for her, there was a sweet ending to this bitter start — as she was eventually able to find someone selling a teacup Yorkie locally.