TORONTO -- A Mississauga man, who was still mourning the loss of his beloved dog, was shocked after he said he was scammed out of more than $3,000 trying to buy a new puppy.

“I love puppies. I lost my puppy three weeks ago and we were very excited to get a new one,” Greg Stachula told CTV News Toronto. 

Stachula was told to send the seller $750 for the puppy, then another $1,450 for travel insurance and then another $850 for what he was told was a COVID-19 vaccine for the dog. 

He was instructed to send the funds using Amazon gift cards, he said, adding that once he sent the $3,050 he never heard from the seller again.

“I just feel so bad that I got taken for this," Stachula said.

Puppy scams have become an international problem with thieves using the loneliness and isolation of the pandemic to prey on victims. 

Steve Baker, an international investigator with the Better Business Bureau, said the scam is run by organized criminals who create fake websites, steal photos of dogs and use fake phone numbers so they appear to be in cities they're not. 

“The stuff has saturated the internet so much I don't think it's possible to go online and search for a pet and not come across a scam, they are just so incredibly common," Baker said. 

Baker said Canadians have lost more than $2 million to puppy scams this year. That number only includes those that have been reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

Baker said scammers are using the pandemic as a reason why people can't see the puppy before they pay for it, but he says people should never pay for a puppy without seeing it first.

It’s best to try and see the dog in person, if not, he suggests a video call instead.

“Ask the person with the puppy to do a zoom chat. There is no way a scammer would ever do that," said Baker.

Also, you should never pay with Bitcoin, a wire transfer or gift cards because once that money is gone, it's nearly impossible to get back.

Stachula said he regrets being scammed out of the money he gave, but he was able to get another puppy he bought directly from a breeder. 

He said he wanted to share his story to warn others who are thinking about getting a pet leading up to the holidays.

“I just want people to not just think of the puppy, and think of all the red flags that I should have seen (but missed),” Stachula said.