Beware online fraudsters posing as puppy breeders
How much is that doggie in the (online) window?
It may seem relatively cheap, but given that it’s a pretend pup which a fraudster is dangling as a lure for unsuspecting puppy buyers, it’s very expensive indeed. This is by no means a new scam, but according to the Kennel Union of Southern Africa (Kusa), it’s “increased dramatically” in recent years and they do very well in the run-up to Christmas.
The fraudsters pose as puppy breeders in online adverts and those who fall for the scam and transfer the money into their bank accounts get an unexpected request on the day of the promised delivery by plane. The “courier company” says the crate provided by the breeder is inadequate and asks the expectant puppy owner to pay extra for a special crate to fly the dog to its “forever home”.
When Hannes* of Cape Town contacted TimesLIVE last week, he strongly suspected he’d fallen for a scam, but he was still holding out some hope that the R4,500 he’d paid for a “toy pom” (Pomeranian) pup hadn’t ended up in a fraudster’s bank account. He’d paid the money into the Absa account of a company calling itself “Golden Pets SA”.
Hannes asked not to be named in full because he was embarrassed to be associated with a “toy pom”.
“I was overruled by wife and kids; that’s not a real dog.”
In this case, despite his joke, he was absolutely right. It was not a real dog.
“My wife, children and I were supposed to fetch the dog from the airport today [Friday, December 21 2018], but now the courier company has emailed to say I need to rent a special crate for R600, with a refundable deposit of R10,000. This doesn’t feel right.”
His instincts were spot on - there was no toy pom, and certainly no fancy “electronic crate” to keep little “Brady” comfortable during his flight from Upington to Cape Town.
Last week, Willem Cronje went shopping online for a French bulldog and paid R8,000 to “Happy Tales Puppy Home” for one. He, too, realised it was a scam when the demand for crate payment came.
Some of the scam artists take it a step further and, having asked their victims for a copy of their IDs, adopt their identity and use it to scam others out of money for non-existent puppies.
Many victims have laid charges with the police, but as with other forms of online fraud, tracing the culprits - who constantly change cellphone numbers and pay people to “borrow” their bank accounts - is practically impossible.
The only way to stop them is for pet buyers to wise up.
Kusa warns on its website: “The sale of puppies advertised on internet websites has increased dramatically. The relative anonymity that certain websites offer is unfortunately being exploited by opportunists. One of the draw cards is the attractive asking price, which is usually below the prevailing price which would normally be charged by well established, reputable and discerning breeders.”
Contact Kusa (call 021 423 9027; email: firstname.lastname@example.org) and ask for the going price for your desired breed and a list of registered breeders.
Five ways to spot a fraudulent online puppy offer:
- They offer too many breeds of dogs and a seemingly endless supply, immediately available;
- When you engage via email, the font is unusually colourful or bold, the language inappropriately syrupy and they seem overly concerned about the puppies. For example: “My greatest wish is to place them in a home where love and care will be theirs. We look forward only to a caring home where they can be spoilt rotten. They will bring so much love and joy to your home or family as they love to run and play but what they love most is giving puppy kisses…”;
- They provide a very long list of wonderful sounding perks, such as: microchip, a “Cadillac” leash, collar, pedigree, registration papers (with non-South African organisations), food samples, toys and a puppy booklet;
- They request full payment immediately; and
- They email a selection of photos of the available puppies, which have been lifted off the internet.