Online scam targets San Francisco dog rescue

A dog rescue group in San Francisco is warning people about an online scam targeting people looking to adopt a pet.

Family Dog Rescue's executive director Ilsa Jule says the nonprofit has been in operation for 11 years.

She says the scam involves someone stealing information right off of the organization's website.

The rescue group is located in the Bayview District.

Jule says there is a demand for dogs during the pandemic.

"It's hard to get an appointment to see them because everyone wants a dog because everyone's home," says Brian Gougherty who was looking for a dog to adopt.

Jule shows KTVU a website called "Hark Town Rescure," noting that "rescue" is misspelled. 

It is claiming that the founder of Family Dog Rescue, a breast cancer survivor, is its founder. 

"I was like wow, that's low. Smart on their part, but that's low," says Jule.

She says the site is listing dogs that belong to Family Dog Rescue, "They just took all of our content. They took our application."

Jule credits Sandra Theesfeld of Iowa with alerting her to the scam.

Theesfeld says she was about to pay $375 to adopt a dog through someone connected to the Hark Town website.

But she says she became suspicious when she was asked to pay before getting the dog.

"No paperwork. No nothing. It was a huge signal. Give us the money. Give us the money," says Theesfeld.  

She and her husband did more research and learned that the the founder listed on the Hark Town Rescue site with a Brooklyn, New York address is actually the founder of Family Dog Rescue in San Francisco.

"I was heartbroken. I was in love with that puppy already," says Theesfeld.

As for Gougherty who was at Family Dog Rescue meeting a dog that he is considering for adoption, "I would definitely want to meet the dog, see the place and then I'd give them some money, but not before."  

Family Dog Rescue urges people who are planning to adopt a dog to be patient.

And if it looks and sounds too good to be true, it probably is.