ATLANTA -- It's a scam that hits more than a hundred people each year, especially around the holidays. Families trying to buy pets are told they can have them shipped home, but they have to pay to get them out of the Atlanta Airport.
"It's really sad," said Warren Jones. He's the cargo manager at Hartsfield-Jackson International airport. "As soon as you hear, 'I've bought a dog I've been told to contact you,' you know right away they've been scammed."
He said he usually gets several calls a month as a result of the scams, but around the holidays they pick up to several a week. He has to tell the victims the airport does not have an animal shipping operation, the airlines do. But the scammers use airport logos in their emails, claiming the pets are under airport control.
"We grew up in a small town, where people helped people and you were able to trust others," said scam victim Patricia Mills. "I guess at this point in time that's something that's lost in our society."
Mills and her husband used their Christmas savings to try to buy their two daughters a pair of bulldog puppies. They found a deal, and started sending money. Even though they thought they'd done their homework by searching the internet for the seller's name and business, it wasn't enough. They've learned their lesson now.
"We want people to learn from us. Make sure you go to their house and actually see the product, don't ever just send money when somebody asks you to," Jonathan Mills said.
At the airport, Jones offers more tips. He said it's always wise to ask for tracking numbers through the airlines who ship the pets. You can ask for a business license, and pay for a credit card so you'll have a way to combat against fraud.
The Mills said after they were taken advantage of, they questioned their trust in human beings. But then people started coming forward to try to help.
"People with kind souls, they pop out of nowhere and they renew your faith," Mills said.