Puppy scammers abound, and not just during the holidays. They frequently advertise free puppies (often yorkies or bulldogs, although I have seen this apply to birds as well) that need a good home on Craigslist, Facebook, or in local papers. You just need to pay the shipping charges to get it to you,usually $200-250 they say.
They want to be paid by Western Union or MoneyGram, before shipment.
Their emails have lots of colors, and sometimes many logos of airlines, and look very important. So you send the money.
And then you might get a call that the puppy has been held up because it needs something special, or there are custom fees due, or the delivery cost wasn’t included. Or they don’t give you the name and number of the service who is supposed to be delivering.
And when you call the number they gave you, you may be pressured to send the extra money immediately or the puppy will be returned/forfeited/euthanized….and many times it is hard to understand the person you reach because of a heavy accent.
These are all warning signs.
The average cost of shipping a pet is more than a passenger ticket. Besides the actual airline freight costs, there is the cost of an appropriate crate, veterinary exams for a health certificate and usually a company or agent to collect the pet and deliver it to the airport. Cost through a professional shipper may be $1000 or more depending on the services required.
Look at the emails closely. Frequently you can find a foreign number near the bottom, or sometimes an address overseas. Many of the scammers come from Africa, especially Cameroon. All those logos? they copied them off legitimate websites and pasted into their email or web posting, No real service would be putting so many airline logos on their website or in an email. Nor do most of us print in the variety of colors and different fonts scammers tend to use.
The phone numbers, if local, are often forwarded overseas. The person may have an accent because they are in Cameroon or other foreign country. They do it because it is easy money, and a few hundred dollars or Euros is a fortune there. Usually you get a person once,and then they probably won’t answer or the number is disconnected. Same thing with emails – they change frequently and are often just a name at yahoo or gmail, not a person with a company email.
Most professional pet shippers will require payment in advance – but usually with a credit card or a bank wire to an account, not an untraceable Western Union payment.
Here at Airborne Animals we receive calls almost every week from people who had a company contact them with a name something like ours that they were supposed to get a puppy from. I have to tell them there is no puppy and the money is gone. Here’s more information at our association website http://www.ipata.org. There is some information on how to report scams as well as recognize them. The best thing is to thoroughly investigate any breeder you plan to buy from on line – and there are lots, I once purchased a puppy from an on line listing, with a friends help, to make sure it was a real person and place.
Any pet shipper that uses the IPATA logo should be listed as a member on the IPATA website. As fast as these fake listings, website and emails can be shut down, another pops up. As the old saying goes, something too good to be true, usually is.