Who doesn’t love a new puppy?

It’s tantilizing inquiries and offers that can easily reach even the most cautious online shopper — such as the discovery of that dog your family has been long searching for — and this is why scams too often work.

Reports from the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office have noticed a significant uptick in individuals being scammed in the county and surrounding states through a scheme involving the purchase of dogs through websites. Often, the scammer will request a large amount of money to supposedly ship the animal. By the time the buyer realizes that no animal is going to be received, the scammers are gone, leaving in their wake a fake or nonexistent address.

The lesson is simple, says Sheriff Len Hagaman: Don’t purchase animals you haven’t physically seen, and better, don’t place any purchases from unverified websites. Indeed, the best course, before you respond to suspect online purchase sites, is to contact local law officers.

Similarly, Hagaman notes that even the supposed barter or trade of goods initiated on the internet and consummated in a physical space can go wrong. For those purposes, the WCSO has neutral “online trade zones” with a 24-hour video camera to record transactions. Those zones are on a part of the concrete pad in front of the WCSO office at 184 Hodges Gap Road in Boone, or in the driveway and first quarter of the parking lot located to the east, directly across the street from Oak Grove Baptist Church.

Such a zone won’t help if you’re expecting a delivery that will never arrive, but for physical transactions that begin on sites such as CraigsList or eBay — or for any purpose that a trade needs to be made — using the safe trade zone is the surest way to conduct your business.

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