Online Puppy Scams using Nigerian Counterfeit Checks and Advance Fees
Dog breeder hounded by international puppy scam artists
02/08 - PALM COAST, FL -- International scam artists may have added a new twist to an old scheme, federal officials say, and a Palm Coast woman says she was the target.
Jody Seltzer considers herself a cautious person, and said she tries to be aware of the many unscrupulous ways people can take advantage.
But she didn't think a call from a hearing-impaired man looking to buy one of her beloved spaniel puppies could be a scam.
"I didn't think anything of it," Seltzer said.
That is until three more so-called hearing-impaired people contacted her with the oddly specific shipping requests.
The scam is simple, yet complicated, according to Jacksonville Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Cary Rosoff.
The perpetrators target people selling items of value in local newspapers or online classified Web sites, Rosoff said. They can adapt the scheme to fit the sale of "literally anything," he said.
But Seltzer's case is the first one involving puppies that Rosoff has heard of.
It usually emanates from Nigeria or another location overseas, Rosoff said. And the goal is to get you to wire money elsewhere after you've accepted a fraudulent cashier's check or money order.
The wired funds can be picked up anonymously by someone involved in the scam.
"It can take up to two weeks to find out the cashier's check or money order is no good;" that's what Palm Coast dog breeder Jody Seltzer said she was told by law enforcement officials and local banks.
The first call came in just after she'd placed a classified ad in a St. Augustine newspaper selling her latest litter of King Charles spaniels.
The spaniels are short-nosed, longhaired dogs that are well-tempered and top the scale in adulthood at 13 to 18 pounds.
She'd never accepted a call from a relay service on behalf of someone who was hearing-impaired before but was open to the process.
The caller asked a few questions via e-mail about the $1,000 puppies. . The man identified himself as "Scott," said he lives in New Mexico and was hoping to purchase two male puppies.
He wanted to have the puppies shipped to another dog seller in Oregon.
Seltzer said she spent that weekend thinking about the offer and worried about the pups she'd grown to love, like spunky gold and white Oliver and sweet tri-colored Santana.
Then she started getting other calls from other interested buyers. And they were oddly familiar.
The calls led to more e-mails and then more strange shipping requests, almost identical to the first. Some e-mails contained words with British spellings.
Each inquirer wished to have one or more puppies shipped out of state. Each wanted to mail a cashier's check or money order large enough to cover the cost of the dog, a deposit and the shipping.
And each wanted Seltzer to wire the overage, meant for shipping expenses, to someone who would be making the actual shipping arrangements.
After the fourth relay call and e-mail, Seltzer became suspicious and contacted the local Attorney General's Office, who then directed her to the Secret Service.
Luckily Seltzer hadn't taken any money or wired any out so she hasn't lost anything.
But people caught up in similar international scams have lost hundreds, thousands or hundreds of thousands. One man lost more than $1 million, Rosoff said.
Seltzer wondered why investigators didn't have her finish one of those transactions so they "nab" bad guys.
But finding a scammer overseas, getting their government to cooperate with American investigators and then getting the country's court system to hear a case where the victim isn't even a resident is difficult and costly, Rosoff said.
The experience has changed Seltzer's outlook on dog breeding.
"It was all so upsetting," Seltzer said.
This litter could be the last Seltzer puts up for sale for a while because "these cute little things caused all this trouble," she said, hugging the small pups she said she loves to a fault.
Puppy Scams Lure Victims Hoping to Adopt a Dog
08/07 - (Alberta) - I’ve been a pet lover for a long time, and when I decided to get serious about getting a puppy for my mid-sized condo, I fell in love with one of the ugliest, and most expensive breeds around.
While English bulldogs are adorable with their drooly, squashed faces, and are lazy, loyal, and perfect for smaller homes, they run upwards of $2500 each.
As it wasn’t an easy purchase for someone living on a reporter’s salary, I started looking at alternative (cheaper) options on some online classified sites.
While I had considered all the changes and sacrifices a puppy would bring to my life, I was sure I was ready. All that was left was finding one at a reasonable price -- or so I thought.
Rather than finding the newest addition to my little family, I found a massive network of organized crime, with the face of orphaned puppies that no warm-blooded person could resist.
I began corresponding through e-mail with someone claiming to be a woman living in Edmonton, whose husband had died, leaving her with two little bulldog puppies named Lilly and Landy.
Through a number of e-mails written in broken English, “Tina” told me everything about the fictional dogs, even listing an address where I could pick one up, all for free.
Having become suspicious at the too-good-to-be-true offer, I started doing some research, and found that puppy scams are one of the most rampant fraud crimes plaguing the Internet today.
John Schultz, Ontario Provincial Police officer, and investigator for the national anti-fraud hotline Phonebusters, confirmed all of my suspicions.
When I told him that “Tina” asked me to send $250 for “a motherless baby’s home” to her church in Toronto in exchange for the dog, he wasn’t the least bit surprised.
“People get taken in by this sort of thing all the time,” he said. “Computers are a great thing, but sometimes with good comes evil. The bad guys are using this technology to their advantage.”
Schultz said that this year alone, Phonebusters has received 50 reports of people who have been scammed out of cash on the hope of getting a puppy, sometimes as high as $1,300.
Often times, the scammer will post stolen photographs of popular breeds like teacup dogs, terriers, and bulldogs, and claim that money is needed to ship the dog overseas.
They’ll request a Western Union money transfer for the puppy that will never get to the would-be owner, and often times doesn’t exist at all.
While Phonebusters deals with the puppy scam on a regular basis, it doesn’t end there.
The central sourcing fraud database in Canada receives 300 to 500 calls a day, with reports of a wide variety of scams, most originating from West Africa.
Kent Read, a Phonebusters investigator, specializes in what are known as “West African Fraud Letters” which have been around since the early 80s when the oil-based economy of Nigeria went downhill.
People in North America received letters or faxes from someone claiming to owe them a large sum of money from oil profits, but needed that person to send them thousands of dollars to claim it.
The scam has evolved over the years, and has mutated into a network of con artists from around the globe, praying on the naïve and trusting.
The con letters that are transmitted through fax, traditional mail, and most often, email, come in the form of inheritance, guardianship, romance, employment, lottery winnings, and yes, puppy scams.
“It’s so diverse now, and if you meet someone online that has a listing on a community site and believe them, you’ve fallen for it.
You might not fall for one of the other scams like the inheritance scam or the lottery scam, but you may fall for the puppy scam,” Read said.
When the service receives complaints of actual fraud that has taken place -- and they often do -- the team then begins an investigation, or adds the complaint to already ongoing investigations.
While they have a reasonable amount of success working with agencies like the RCMP and FBI, they often can’t do much to attackers in foreign countries unless that country has an extradition treaty with Canada.
"When you’re looking for something cheap, and it’s too good to be true, it’s just common sense at that point," a local bulldog breeder told me over the phone.
While she didn’t want to be named because of the overwhelming amount of inquiries her business receives, she did say that they receive about five calls a week from shocked pet lovers that have been caught by the scam.
"I’m sorry that these people get scammed out of their money, because it’s not fair. These people are mean and don’t deserve the money, because this is a scam that they’re using animals as pawns and people’s heartstrings."
After getting more than I bargained for when beginning the search for a puppy the cheap and easy way, I had re-affirmed a few ideas in my mind.
Mainly, there’s a fine line between being trusting and stupid, that gut instinct can often speak louder than the promise of something for nothing, and if it looks too good to be true, it often is.
(Sherwood Park News)
Puppy Scam Bites Unwary Victim Seeking "Free Dog"
09/07 - A Mississauga woman says she's embarrassed and angry that she forked out more than $500 to get a "free puppy" from Nigeria, but wants to go public with her story to prevent others from making the same mistake.
"I really got sucked in. I feel so gullible," Anita Hagerman, 44, said yesterday.
Even though the 11-week-old Yorkie was advertised as free, Hagerman last week complied with requests for three payments, totalling $500, to ship the dog to Toronto from Nigeria.
Her suspicion was aroused when she was asked for a fourth payment of $100 after being told the dog had become ill and required a shot before it could make the trip.
"I've been taken, I know I have. It's a sad thing when people take advantage of others," she said.
"I want to let other people know what's going on," she added.
Hagerman is the latest victim in a worldwide "free puppy" scam originating from Nigeria.
Scammers are placing ads online and in newspapers for popular breeds such as Yorkshire terriers and English bulldogs. They request hundreds of dollars in shipping fees, but the dogs are never sent.
"The dogs don't exist," said Lee Oliver, spokesperson for the Toronto Humane Society. "I would characterize these people as vultures. They take advantage of deep-felt emotions that we have for dogs and cats in this world."
"They are definitely keyed in to taking advantage of people who don't have the money to do it through normal channels," Oliver said.
Oliver described it as an international scheme, noting it has appeared in newspapers and online across Canada.
Indeed, the society issued a warning about the scam in April after seeing an ad in the free Toronto weekly 24. He said he's heard about one other GTA resident who responded to it.
The online ad that Hagerman responded to was on LiveDeal.ca, which she accessed through the Toronto Star website. It came complete with a picture of a Yorkie pup in a white basket. The ad stated:
"GORGEOUS YORKSHIRE TERRIER FOR FREE GRAB HER NOW!!!"
The ad stated the dog is friendly with children and other animals, it needs a "God-fearing" home and "she is going to make you happy."
Hagerman responded to the ad on Sept. 10. She sent an email saying she was interested in the dog and later that day she got a phone call from Nigeria from a man who said his name was Paul.
He said he and his wife worked as missionaries and weren't able to keep the dog, which he referred to as "his baby."
He said he would send the dog by air to Toronto but she would have to pay the $200 shipping fee. Hagerman wired the money via Western Union on Tuesday morning.
Paul called later that day, saying the airline required $250 to put the dog in a crate. Once again, Hagerman complied.
Then Paul called on Wednesday, saying he needed another $50 to change the dog's ownership. Hagerman sent more money.
She paid $16 for each wire transfer.
"By the middle of the week, I was starting to get suspicious because he was asking for a little bit here, a little bit there," she said.
Each time she wired money, she was promised she could pick up the dog at the airport the next day.
The last straw came on Wednesday night, when Paul told her he needed another $100, explaining that "my baby needs a needle."
When she balked, he told her she could forget about getting the dog.
When the Star contacted Paul in Nigeria yesterday, he said if Hagerman didn't make one last payment, "she's not getting the baby."
He got angry when asked if he was trying to steal Hagerman's money.
"Are you trying to call me a scam? I'm a family man," he said. "I am a man of God. I am a missionary."
He said his family couldn't care for the dog and they couldn't find a home for it in Africa.
"Me and my family don't have enough time for baby ... I want a good Christian home for my baby ... I love this baby," he said.
Before angrily hanging up on a reporter, Paul asked: "Why all these questions? Why are you accusing?"
Hagerman called Peel Regional Police, who referred her to PhoneBusters, the anti-fraud call centre operated by the Ontario Provincial Police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
It collects information on the so-called "Nigerian letter" scam, which involves bogus emails offering large sums of cash if the recipients help launder money.
"It sounds like this is a new spin on the Nigerian letter scam," Peel Const. Adam Minnion said of the "free puppy" scheme. "This type of scam is becoming more prevalent."
On its website, LiveDeal Canada warns consumers against making out-of-country purchases.
Puppy Adoption Scams Latest Ploy in Nigerian Counterfeit Check Scam Advance Fee Fraud
09/07 - AMERICAN organizations and concerned individuals last week unveiled a new type of crimes of persuasion, known locally as 419 carried out by Nigerian con men through the use of dogs and their puppies.
In this new wave of 419, Nigerian fraudsters are said to be luring prospective and unsuspecting buyers of dogs and lovers of puppies to buy these domestic animals that are non-existing through the internet.
Last year alone the concerned groups, including the Council of Better Business Bureaus, the Humane Society of the United States, the Internet Crime Complaint Centre and the American Kennel Club disclosed that about 700 Americans were defrauded through the sale of puppies on the internet.
For each fraud, the con men reportedly stole between N40, 000 and N300, 000 through the sale of imaginary puppies.
According to reports, though some of the fraud may have originated from within the United States, but Nigerian con men were particularly fingered in the ones that originated from overseas.
In these schemes to make money from unsuspecting pet lovers, con men are said to have created websites indicating that they have puppies for sale.
They use two types of tricks which involve what is being described as overpayment scam in which a fraudster contacts someone and negotiates a price and later sends payment for the animal in form of a cashier’s cheque.
However, the fraudster would ask the potential victim to return the overpayment through an electronic transfer, back to the fraudster or a third party.
The report by Leslie McFadden added that "the victim eventually learns the cashier’s cheque is counterfeit and loses the money he or she was supposed to get for the dog, plus any funds wired to the scammer.
If the victim actually sent the dog, he or she won’t get it back.”
In the case of Nigerian 419 men using pets, the Americans warned on the internet last week that the con artists run advertisements on web sites they specifically created for the ploys and offer “purebred puppies - typically English bulldogs or Yorkshire terriers - either free or at a discounted price.”
The con artist then claims the animal “is free or discounted.” They also lie further that the owner is a missionary who has been looking for a new home for the dogs who has been suffering from terrible weather or climatic conditions in her present location or that the dog needed a new home after she was rescued from terrible natural disaster
Unsuspecting victims would then be asked to pay for the shipment or transportation of the dog, payment for innoculation and other fees.
When the victims pay for all these, the dogs are never sent and the con men keep asking for more money and they give reasons for the delay in transportation.
Internet Puppy Scam Tricks Victims with Advance Fees and Non-existent Pets
08/07 - (South Carolina) - She wanted a Teacup Yorkie. She got nothing.
Haley Shaw, a bartender at Sports Break, wanted to purchase a puppy, but prices were too high for her in this area. So she searched the Web, looking for the perfect dog for her and her family.
Her cursor eventually ended up on AdtoAd.com, a free classified and advertisement site. There, she found exactly what she was looking for — or so she thought.
An advertisement claimed free adoption for a Teacup Yorkie. The seller was listed as living in Los Angeles, but after contacting the person, Shaw was told the person was actually from Cameroon, Africa.
The breeder there said she only listed Los Angeles because the site lists by state.
The breeder explained she couldn’t take care of the dog; it needed a good home.
So Shaw arranged for the dog to be shipped to Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport. The breeder only asked that $90 be sent through Western Union for airfare. That’s when the trouble began.
Shaw said she began receiving e-mails about the dog’s crate. Apparently, it wasn’t made for shipping a dog via airplane. So Shaw sent $50 to cover that cost.
Then she was asked to send $200 for insurance on the dog. The spending didn’t end there. Shaw was asked through e-mail to send another $100 because the necessary city stamps were needed for the crate.
Shaw’s total now topped out at about $600. She’d had enough.
“I drew the line then,” she said.
Shaw said she received yet another e-mail asking for payment to keep the dog in France overnight, but that’s when she did some research.
She said she found Cameroon to be one of the biggest dog-scam countries in the world. “I wasted a lot of money,” she said with a shake of the head.
Her children, who had already seen the dog and fallen in love with it, were disappointed. Her husband was angry with their Cameroon breeder.
But how does Shaw feel?
“I should have known,” she said. “The pictures — two totally different animals.”
Karen Pettay, executive director of the Greenwood Humane Society, said she has not heard of instances such as Shaw’s, but she knows of instances where purchased dogs turned out to be different breeds than what they were advertised.
Shelter manager Anne Reed said she has seen this a few times. In the situations she has seen, usually the pet purchaser doesn’t obtain enough information on the pet or the breeder.
Reed said it happens here and all over the country, mostly because there are no breeder laws.
Essentially, anybody can be a pet breeder.
When asked what Shaw did as a result of the scam, she said she made a phone call to Cameroon. Shaw said the dog’s owner continued trying to sell her sob story about the dog’s need for a good home. Shaw didn’t bite.
“I’ve been punked,” she said. “Scammed.”
Will she attempt another doggy purchase?
“No, I’m calling this one my cyberdog. She’ll have to do for a while.”