Jim Hegarty, with the Better Business Bureau in Omaha-Council Bluffs, says a three-month study of internet puppy ads brought very discouraging results.
Hegarty says, “Nearly 80% of the paid ads that you will see online if you do a Google search for a pet are believed to be fictitious and set up by fraudsters who primarily reside in Cameroon, West Africa.”
Still, the ads all claim they’re based in the U.S., often in Texas. Initially, Hegarty says customers are often asked for a deposit. Later, they’ll be notified the puppies are ready to be shipped and full up-front payment is needed, typically for several hundred dollars.
He says, “Normally, when these deals are being operated by scammers in Cameroon, they are advised to make their payments through wire transfers, usually at Western Union or Moneygram.”
Hegarty says customers are then told by an alleged shipping company that a special crate is needed, for an extra fee. They may also get a call from the airport, claiming the animal is in quarantine and requires a vet check prior to release, yet another scam.
Omaha resident Judy Stroy says she and her husband wanted to buy a beagle puppy from a breeder in Texas and had to send 400-dollars via wire transfer, which they did.
“The next day, I received the shipping instructions for the puppy and they requested another $750 for pet insurance,” Stroy says. “I was like, whoa, red flag. This isn’t working. So, I refused to pay the pet insurance and the owner kept emailing me saying, ‘Please send this money,’ and I said, ‘No.'”
They lost the $400 deposit and never got the dog.