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North Texas family out $20,000 after falling victim to gift card scam: "I really just wanted a dog"

Gift card scam robs DFW couple of thousands
Gift card scam robs DFW couple of thousands 05:03

FORT WORTH — A local family will likely never look at gift cards the same way again after they became victims of an increasingly popular scam. They're now out tens of thousands of dollars and it all started innocently enough: with a search for a new family pet.

Kelli and Michael Regan lost two family dogs within the span of a month about a year ago. It was a hard loss, but they soon decided they wanted another dog. They began their search on Facebook. 

"She found one that she liked, went ahead and talked to the owner and he said, 'Well you can just send a deposit,'" said Michael Regan. 

And that's where their trouble began.

Gift cards as payment

We've been covering gift card scams for years. Want proof? Just click here, here or here

But this story isn't gift card draining, which I-Team reporter Ginger Allen has covered extensively. This story is specifically about gift cards as payment — a type of fraud that's on the rise across the country. 

When the Regans contacted the breeder of the dog they wanted to put down a deposit, they weren't asked for cash. They were asked for a gift card. 

"They're like, 'No gift card's easier for us because we don't have to pay for a credit card machine to run your credit cards," said Michael Regan. 

The Regans reluctantly agreed. They bought a gift card and sent a photo of the 16-digit number and PIN. But from there, they were asked for more money. 

"You've got to pay for the shot records ... Transportation ... Rent the crate ... You get the refund back once they deliver the dog," said Michael Regan. "Pretty soon you're about $5,000 in the hole and all you've seen is a picture of the dog. 

After a couple of months of back and forth, the Regans realized this was shady and decided to cut their losses.

Unfortunately, the Regans' story doesn't end here.

They soon began their search on Facebook again and fell in love with another dog they loved, a Bassett Hound they hoped to name Bentley.

Once again, a breeder asked them to send a gift card as a deposit for shipping crates and drugs to sedate Bentley during delivery. 

Once again, this breeder ran into delays, giving excuses about the delivery driver's van breaking down and the delivery driver getting stopped by police. And finally:

"They said the dog is dead," Kelli Regan said. "And now you need to pay a fee to get ... a new dog delivered."

The Regans say they're down nearly $20,000. And they're far from alone.

"I really just wanted the dog," said Kelli Regan. "But it wasn't worth what we put ourselves through."

'We can all be victims'

In less than three years, the Federal Trade Commission found Americans lost $690 million in gift card payment scams. According to the Better Business Bureau, in 2023 this type was up 50% year to year, with more than a thousand cases nationwide last year. 

And that's just those reported.

"We know that fraud is a chronically underreported crime because the victims often feel shame and stigma," said John Breyault, VP of Public Policy, Telecommunications, Fraud at the National Consumers League. "We talk about people falling for scams ... it assumes that someone who is smart wouldn't fall for this."

And it's not just gift card fraud. Americans filed 2.6 million reports of fraud to the FTC in 2023 and reported ten billion dollars in losses — a new high. 

"Fraud affects all Americans from all walks of life, every education level, every income level, no matter where you live," said Breyault.

But consumer advocates say it's important to remember that scammers are professional criminals, and technology is making it easier for them to identify victims and tailor pitches to them specifically.

"Scammers are incredibly adept at pushing our emotional buttons," said Breyault. "We can all be victims ... that could be you tomorrow."

And the stigma associated with these kinds of crimes only further perpetuates them. If victims don't file reports with law enforcement officials, law enforcement isn't aware of just how big of a problem fraud is and they devote resources to going after criminals.

Consumer tips

This is a picture of the first dog the Regans gave up on: 

CBS News Texas

The Basset Hound was named Blitz on the breeder's Facebook page and website — both are no longer online. But the I-Team learned "Blitz" is really named Snoopy, and he's not up for adoption. 

Using a reverse Google image search, we traced this photo to Snoopy's owner in Pennsylvania. She told us this happens quite a bit. Someone had stolen Snoopy's picture for this fraud.

This is a picture of Bentley, the dog that supposedly died: 


Another reverse Google image search revealed this is just a stock photo. 

The Regans also sent the I-Team a photo sent to them when the delivery driver was allegedly pulled over by the cops:

CBS News Texas

This image actually comes from the State of New Jersey's YouTube page. It's a thumbnail for a video about safety tips if you're pulled over by police. 

There are two very important takeaways from the Regans' story: 

  1. If you have questions about a product or animal you're buying online, do what we did. Start with a reverse image search. It's simple: just open Google, drag and drop your image in the search bar, and see if that image pops up in other places online. 
  2. You should never make a payment with a gift card. If someone asks you, that's a red flag.
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