MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- It was going to be a heart-warming surprise, but turned into a trick that nearly cost one woman hundreds!
"There is an emergency problem now with the kitten's delivery about the crate rejection by the TSA," Kim McCarthy reads from her text message log on her phone. It's the text that finally tipped her off that she got caught up in a scam.
"I just am surprised that I let it happen to me," she says laughing.
But this scam is no laughing matter. McCarthy was looking online, trying to find a cat for her mom, and came across the website KittensForAdoption.us. She posted a message and got a response quickly from a man in Virginia who said he had the kitten she wanted - named Fiona.
"Through a series of correspondence," she says, "we decided yes that we would buy one of his kittens."
She says she was told to pay the shipping up-front - $170. But the seller wanted her to pay in a way that almost made her think twice.
"I followed what he asked which was to go to Home Depot, buy a card called a 'REloadit' card, and that way you scratch off the back, give him the numbers and he can send the cat," she explains.
"REloadit" cards can only be purchased using cash, and giving up those numbers on the back gives the person with the PIN number access to those funds!
"[The seller] called the day he was shipping the cat saying he dropped the cat off," McCarthy says. "Everything went well. You'll be hearing now from the courier."
That's when she heard from someone claiming to be from a company called Star Wood Animal Transport, which wanted her to pay even more!
"The cat wasn't properly crated for the weather in Virginia," she explains. "And it was going to cost me an extra $840 that was completely refundable, and how would you like to pay?"
That's when Kim knew she had been tricked.
"I text back to the shipping company and said 'this isn't going to go through' and they're like 'well this has to go through, the cat's at the airport,'" McCarthy says. "I said 'well I'm not paying.'"
Turns out there is a Star Wood Animal Transport Service, but McCarthy thinks the texts and emails were coming from someone using the company's name. She says it's the so-called company that took her money - then disappeared.
"We have cancelled the transaction but we are sorry," McCarthy reads from her text log. "You are not going to get a refund. And I said 'yeah I bet you are.'"
The real Star Wood Animal Transport Service tells us its company has long been a target for this kind of trick using puppies as the lure, and says it never takes money through re-loadable debit cards or communicates primarily through text messages.
If you`re going to adopt a pet, make sure you can see it in person - because you never know who - or what's - behind that picture.