AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – If you’re looking to add a new fur-baby to your family, heads up. Crooks may be using social media to target you.

They can even do it through people you may know.

First, they hack someone’s profile. Then they post pictures of full-breed puppies, like Yorkies or golden doodles, saying they are only asking for a re-homing fee, which they want upfront. They will usually ask for it by gift card or Zelle.

Once people pay, the scammer disappears with the money and leaves them without a puppy.

Stephanie Ford with Friends of North Augusta Animals in Georgia explained that there are ways to spot these scammers.

“The first thing is to check out the profile of the person who is posting. Is it a new profile? Have they not posted in a while? The second is to use Google. Reverse image search what the person has posted. A lot of these scams, they just pull stock photos from the internet,” said Ford.

Ford said the best way to avoid these scammers is to adopt, don’t shop. Finding yourself a new furry family member at a local shelter or rescue saves a life and protects you as well.

Some scammers can also be found asking people for money to help support the injured dog they claimed to have found. But, you should be careful before you offer to help.

If you send a message to the scammer offering to help, they will often send you a link. The link is supposed to take you to a website where you can donate money to help with vet care.

What actually happens when you click on the link? You download a virus allowing them access to your information.

Ford advises people to pay attention when private messaging with someone about an injured animal, even if you think you are talking to a friend.

“You definitely want to be aware of the way they are talking to you. A lot of times, these scammers, English is not their first language. And so the way that your friend would speak to you might be, ‘Hi, how are you?’ But this person might say ‘Hi, I hope that you’re having a wonderful day.’ Very different from what you normally would get with a friend,” she explained.

Ford also advises people to always check out profiles of people claiming to be helping an injured animal. If it’s a brand new profile or the profile of a friend or acquaintance who hasn’t posted in a while, you should be suspicious.

Also, ask to speak to them on the phone. Scammers will do everything they can to avoid that.

Pet scams cost those living in North America more than $1.3 million last year, according to the Better Business Bureau. Though less than 2021’s $3 million level, the BBB says the average loss per victim rose by almost $100 to $850.