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updated 12/6/2012 12:21:23 PM ET 2012-12-06T17:21:23

In a holiday nightmare, one woman learned the hard way that buying pets online is never a safe bet, no matter how carefully a seller is vetted.

North Dakota resident Marlene Partlow, who purchased a teacup Chihuahua puppy for $350 via PayPal, told the Jamestown (N.D.) Sun that she examined purported seller Thalia Hernandez's Facebook page and saw that she had a verified PayPal account before sending payment.

But when Partlow went to the airport to pick up her kids' new dog, which was flying in from California, airport officials in Fargo, N.D., told her that no such animal had arrived.

"I immediately just started crying," once she realized she'd been scammed, Partlow told the Sun.

Partlow said she had been successfully purchasing goods online without incident for more than a decade. [ Retailers Worry About PayPal Security. Should You? ]

After Partlow left the airport, she tried to phone Hernandez, but within 30 minutes of the call, Hernandez's phone was disconnected, the Sun reported. Hernandez's Facebook page was taken down soon afterward.

Partlow said there was only one sketchy detail about the pre-delivery arrangements: Hernandez said her PayPal account wasn't working and asked Partlow to send payment through the less secure Western Union wire service instead.

But when Partlow refused, Hernandez agreed to accept the PayPal payment.

Partlow said she has since filed a complaint with PayPal in an attempt to recoup her money, but if Hernandez's account is empty, that's unlikely to occur.

Partlow said she also left a message with local law enforcement in the California town where Hernandez said she lived.

Partlow also told the Sun that ads with the same photos of the same dogs are being circulated online, with new contact information.

"It's unbelievable that there are people like that in this world. I guess we're naive living here," Partlow said. "You think everybody's good and they're not."

© 2012 TechNewsDaily

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