Everything old is new again as BBB reminds people to buy pets locally, not online.

July 14, 2009

What should have been an early morning of puppy breath and wet kisses ended in tears, frustration and financial loss for Sandra. She arrived at Fresno Yosemite International airport at 4:30 a.m. today, anxiously waiting to take ownership of her new English bulldog puppy only to discover that she had been a victim of a puppy scam.

“These people prey on the American love of animals,” said Doug Broten, president of the BBB serving Central California. “Often they even send the intended victim a picture of the breed of puppy in question, saying they are desperate to find a good home for their pet, when the animal really doesn’t even exist.”

The traditional puppy scam offers a puppy for sale, either through an online listing site or unsolicited e-mail. The seller usually claims the puppy is loved by the family but sad circumstances are forcing them to find a new home for the animal. Buyers are required to wire money to a foreign country, frequently Nigeria, and are told the date the puppy will arrive at the new owner’s local airport.

English BulldogPuppy scams have come and gone over the years in the Central Valley, but what gives Sandra’s sad story a different twist from past scams is that she didn’t find her puppy online or through an e-mail. She saw a classified ad in The Hanford Sentinel for an English bulldog puppy, a pet she had long wanted to own. She immediately called the local number listed and a woman told her that she thought all the puppies had been sold, but that there might be one left. Sandra left her name and contact information and soon received a call from a man named Robert William, who said he did indeed have just one puppy still available for sale. They e-mailed and chatted on the phone and Sandra agreed to buy the dog. She wasn’t suspicious because his email messages weren’t poorly written or misspelled and he seemed like a “nice Christian man,” according to Sandra. Because of that and because she really wanted the puppy, Sandra sent $600 via Western Union to an address in Nigeria.

Needless to say, the puppy didn’t arrive at FYI this morning and Sandra lost both her money and her pet.

The BBB urges people wanting to adopt a new pet to search for local breeders, stores and animal shelters. Always check with the BBB at 800-675-8118 or at bbb.org to verify the reliability report of anyone selling a pet before spending money. It is also a good idea to physically see the animal so you can check out the environment it comes from before finalizing a purchase.

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