NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Customers paid hundreds to thousands of dollars for purebred puppies, only to discover the dogs never existed.

Now the Better Business Bureau is issuing a warning to consumers looking to purchase a dog online.

The scam even has direct ties to North Texas.

Khira Vitak ordered a puppy from in hopes of training the dog as her service animal.

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s a boy, he’s so happy and healthy,’ ” said Vitak, who exchanged numerous emails with someone she believed to be the breeder.

Vitak said she paid nearly $699 for the Akita through Google Pay.

The alleged breeder told Vitak she could pick up the dog at an address in Fort Worth. So Vitak drove from the Houston area, where she lives, to Fort Worth to retrieve her dog.

But when she arrived at the residential address, the homeowners had no dog and no answers. Vitak said they had no idea their address was used in an online scam.

“I just sat down,” Vitak said. “I was hoping for the best, but I was expecting the worst.”

Vitak was one of 16 people who fell for the nationwide hoax, according to the Better Business Bureau.

A web of 11 dog breeders claimed they were based in Fort Worth. But in reality, the BBB discovered the sites were fake and traced the registered agent to India.

“The dogs aren’t even real. They’re just photographs, pictures of cute puppies to entice people to purchase,” said Amy Rasor, the regional director of the Better Business Bureau in Fort Worth.

In some cases, the scammers even promised to fly the dogs to customers. The BBB found in total, people lost more than $10,000 by making payments via Google Pay or Zelle.

“Those are typically red flags when you want to pay for something, especially online, sight unseen,” Rasor said.

The websites, which used names such as “Fluffy Frenchies” and “Sturdy Bulldogs,” have vanished from the internet. But for Vitak, the pain is still very real.

“Having to tell everyone, ‘I’m really sorry, but I got scammed,’ was difficult,” Vitak said.

To avoid these types of schemes:

-Never pay for a pet without first seeing it in person.
-Never wire or send money to a stranger.
-If possible, use a credit card so you can dispute erroneous charges.
-Reconsider your actions if someone is selling a purebred dog at a deeply discounted price.
-Ask for multiple photos or videos of the dog you intend to get.