One of the newest types of scams emerging over the past few years, as reported by several
organizations including the American Kennel Club and Internet Crimes Complaint Center (IC3),
relates to pet sales. Within the past year, IC3 has received over 700 complaints from people that
answered ads for pets.
As with most scams, these con artists are very difficult to catch and few, if any, victims have
ever recouped their losses. Although reported crimes have dropped over the past couple of
years, the amount of money lost has risen tremendously. Here’s a story from one of our readers
about how easy it is to become involved in a scam of this kind.
I was a US Army private at the time I was scammed. I was looking for a playmate for my
Weimaraner. When I found a free bulldog puppy on Craigslist I knew she, Betty, would be the
perfect companion just from viewing the picture. I contacted the owner and found out that he
lived in Cameroon. He said he was looking for someone in the US to give the puppy to, but
needed $100 for the overseas shipping. I sent a money order for the amount requested then
waited. After a few days I contacted the scammer again to find out when the puppy would arrive.
I was told that a plane had crashed at the airport and that there would be a delay in getting her
out. The scammer then explained that he had a slight financial setback and needed another $100
to get the puppy out, but that he would happily refund it. Although I had to scrounge around
to get it, I sent the requested amount through money gram. Next thing I know I get an email
from France where I’m told the puppy is being held at the airport because she doesn’t have the
proper permit to allow her entry into the US. I’m told that there is a $650 refundable tax that
needs to be paid before they can ship her. I tell them I won’t pay any more. Next thing I know
the scammer says he will pay it upfront if I will refund him after I receive the puppy. Of course,
I don’t agree and nothing happens until I get an email from “supposedly” the FBI in Cameroon.
They say I’ve been found to be working with a scammer and that I have to contact their agency
immediately if I want to clear my name. I ignore it, but soon receive an email from the scammer
saying he’s given my name to an attorney that will help me clear the mess up. At this point I’m
kind of scared thinking, “What did I get myself into?” Then I get an email from this “supposed”
lawyer named Walden Sama who says he’ll represent me in court if I pay a $500 lawyer’s fee.
When the second request for the $100 came I suspected a scam, but everything that happened
afterward confirmed it. I never responded to the follow-up emails and they eventually stopped
pestering me. Never again will I use Craigslist to buy anything.
According to IC3 there are three main types of pet scams: an overpayment scheme, a Nigerian
pet scam such as the one described here, and a sale that ends up producing an ill or dying puppy
or no puppy at all. In the US California, Florida, and Louisiana are hot spots, but most of these
types of scams are operated from overseas. According to the Better Business Bureau, victims
that have filed complaints have lost anywhere from $250 per transaction to $2,000, but there are
many more people who never file a complaint. According to IC3, you should never buy a dog
over the internet or without visually inspecting it. The internet is great for finding a breeder, but
that’s where research should end. This pet should be in the family 15 to 20 years so make sure
the purchase is from a trustworthy individual.