Tuesday, September 29, 2009

craigslist dog scam

Puppy fraud is one of the most common Internet scams - and it's on the rise, according to RCMP Corporal Louis Robertson, director of the Canadian anti-fraud centre PhoneBusters, which is managed jointly by the Ontario Provincial Police, the RCMP and the Canadian Competition Bureau.

It all started when Rebecca responded to an Internet ad websites like Petfinder.com or Craigslist for a free puppy, owned by a poster who said he could no longer afford to care for the animal.
Rebecca Aobaugh: "There was always a line in there that always got me. It was, 'please, please promise me that you'll send me pictures of my puppy.' So that kind of pulled at my heart strings and that's why I went for that."
She sent $200 dollars for shipping of the dog to Cameroon, Africa. No dog arrived. An employee of Delta Airlines told Rebecca this could be a scam.
Rebecca Aobaugh: "I said, no it's not a scam. How could it be a scam? How could people scam you for a puppy?"
Then came a request for an additional $600 dollars. She didn't fall for it and that's how she ended up buying this little guy.
The same thing happened to Michelle Waltenburg of Tacoma. She was on the Craigslist web site looking at the classified ads for pets when she came across an ad for a "lovely English bulldog puppy needing a loving and caring home."

"Something about the way they worded it jumped out at me," she said. "It was an adorable little bulldog puppy, just sitting there, looking at the camera. That's it. That's all it takes."

Michelle responded and got a quick reply from a James Campbell. He claimed to be an American working in Cameroon. He said he wanted someone in the United States to adopt his bulldog puppy, Suzy, because the weather in Africa was no good for her.

"And he said, 'No, there's no fee, but I need you to pay for the puppy to be flown home,' " Waltenburg recalled. "And I said, 'Oh cool. I can do that,' having no idea what was involved."

Waltenburg thought she was going to get a purebred puppy for free, as long as she paid for the shipping, which the "seller" said had to be wired via Western Union.

Michelle sent him $180. That's when the requests for more money started coming in.

"Unfortunately, there never was a dog and you're never going to get your money back," said Alison Preszler, with the National Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Some scammers ask for financial deposits in exchange for a dog that will never materialize, he said. Others send photos of dogs asking for money to help rescue them from famine or homelessness - a scam that was particularly popular after Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans.

PhoneBusters has received 168 complaints of puppy scams over the past five years, probably only a fraction of the actual number because people are often too embarrassed to admit they've been duped, Cpl. Robertson said.

Another Toronto woman who answered the same ad as Ms. Vanderbrug, on Kijiji, which is similar to Craigslist, said she felt something was wrong after she realized the puppy was too big to be a Coton de Tulear

Others are similar to the one Ms. Vanderbrug ran into, he said; sellers post ads for dogs they claim are purebred but they're actually mutts or come from puppy mills.

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