Scams target adoptors & humane societies
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2008:
MONROE, Louisiana The Better Business Bureau of Northeast Louisiana on November 2, 2008 issued a warning against e-mail and classified ad scams offering puppies or rescued dogs for adoption, if the recipient will pay transportation costs in advance.
The would-be dog adoptor may also be asked to fill out an adoption screening questionaire which requests information that can be used to access the victim s personal bank and credit card accounts.
Then, after the dog has supposedly been sent, the scammer may report some sort of complication in transport, such as the dog becoming ill or being detained by customs inspectors, which is said to require additional payments and more personal information from the would-be adoptor.
Many legitimate rescue organizations adopt out animals through comparable arrangements including many overseas organizations that send dogs to the U.S. and Europe from parts of the developing world known for e-mail scammers.
Avoiding getting scammed requires independently verifying all claims of identity, including the prefixes of telephone numbers and IP numbers in e-mail headers.
Some scammers use bogus contact information for legitimate charities, operating from different nations that the charities they pretend to be.
The Better Business Bureau alert was issued, wrote Matthew Hamilton of the Monroe News-Star, after six Monroe residents complained about a classified ad for two Yorkshire terrier puppies, placed by a Rev. Brown, who claimed to be a missionary in Africa. We re due for more travel to some remote part of west africa, the purported missionary wrote, and we cannot risk taking them along as we know it will have adverse effect on them, health wise.
Added Hamilton, Swindlers can as easily run a scam buying puppies as in giving them away. A West Monroe police officer ran an ad in September to sell border collies. Via interpreter, she communicated with a deaf woman in Seattle who agreed to buy the puppies. The check for the puppies arrived from a bank in North Carolina, postmarked from California, with instructions to wire money to a third party in New York. The check was written for $1,900 more than agreed.
The police officer knew something wasn t right and canceled the sale, Hamilton wrote, but the buyer asked her to cash the check anyway and wire a fraction of the money to New York, to refund the overpayment.
In this type of scam, If you deposit that check, it will take a couple of weeks or a month to fully clear, explained Amy Lawson, president of the Monroe branch of the Better Business Bureau of Northeast Louisiana. Meanwhile the scammer cashes the money order, sent as the refund, and disappears from contact.
The victim loses the animals or merchandise sent in exchange for the overpayment, the supposed refund, and all the associated bank fees.
Lawson considered the involvement of puppies in both scams a coincidence, Hamilton wrote, but said swindlers do try to prey upon a potential victim s emotions whether for animals, noble causes or the disabled.
The overpayment scam is sometimes structured to hoax humane societies into believing they have received an unexpected major bequest, as sometimes actually happens. In March 2006 such a scam clipped the Performing Animal Welfare Society, of Galt, California. PAWS deposited a forged cashier s check for $95,000, and for five days used the money to pay off debts, before the check bounced. PAWS did not refund any money to the scammer, however, and promptly warned other humane organizations to beware of similar frauds.
The Louisiana alert was issued just as a similar scheme resurfaced, apparently originating in Thailand, in which a scammer pretends to be a veterinarian who is going back to university, relocating, or retiring, and offers to donate veterinary equipment to a humane society that will cover the transportation. Working the same way as the puppy adoption scam, but trying to collect larger sums, this scam is almost as old as any humane presence on the Internet.
Variations costing humane organizations thousands of dollars during the past two years involve bogus online vendors of veterinary supplies, promotional merchandise, and opportunities to boost web traffic. These schemes are often promoted by personalized e-mails sent directly to executive directors or shelter managers, sometimes on the pretext of having met the recipient at a recent conference.
The scammers web sites look like those of legitimate companies, with apparently legitimate contact information, but the street addresses typically do not exist, the telephone numbers go to cell phones, and credit card payments go to processors located outside the U.S. and/or the European Union.
The web sites themselves may disappear soon after an order is placed and paid for and sometimes turn out to have been posted without authorization at inactive web addresses belonging to deceased individuals or defunct businesses.