Buying a pet online - Seek the facts
By: John Fairheart - FraudWatchers.org
January 8th, 2008
There are currently a growing number of people being drawn in to a form of Advance Fee Fraud perpetrated from gangs primarily in Cameroon, West Africa. The animal export laws there are currently restrictive enough that not even a common domestic animal can be easily shipped out of the country. Be aware that *any* offer of an animal, free or for sale, from Cameroon is suspect.
See Cameroon Pet Export Scam Sample Scam Emails
and Anatomy of a Pet Scam
The target of the criminals are consumers seeking a pet. For the most part the pets appear to be of two main types: Monkeys and Dogs usually babies/puppies. It should be noted that any animal can be offered, so please do not take the above as a "defacto-standard".
This simple article is designed to be a quick reference point for those people wishing to purchase a pet, especially from a source on the internet. The same truths also apply to advertisements in your local newspaper, as these criminals have been known to advertise that way too. I also recommend reading my colleagues posting too: Seeking Pets Online - Think Carefully Before Buying, posted by Nyla
First and foremost if you are purchasing any type of pet, you must actually visit the animal in its current environment, especially if it is something like a dog or a cat. Only an unthinking pet purchaser would simply accept a photograph, a description and the say-so of the seller, as to the health and emotional state of the pet in question. If you cannot actually visit the animal, or are refused, then you have to walk away from the deal. No 'ifs and buts', no crying about the "cutey pictures", simply walk. No pet seller in their right mind would ever deny a viewing; It is not in their interest to deny access.
This brings us nicely into the following scenario -- What if the pet is not in your own country? If you are a professional importer of live animals, then you would know what to do, but what about average Joe and Jane looking for a pet? Here you run away screaming, and go look for a local seller. That's not supposed to be a joke either, it's very factual. Never ever deal with an international seller of live animals unless you know exactly what you are doing. There is a very high probability that a seller who advertises a pet in one country or state that later turns out to be in another country or state, is in fact a scammer and not a pet owner.THINK!
More Data (USA)
In the United States of America there is some very good information regarding the importation of pets and other animals via the Department of Health and Human Services website "Centers for Disease Control and Prevention" [link
- Importation of Pets, Other Animals, and Animal Products into the United States [link]
There is a section on Dogs, Cats and Turtles here, as well as restricted animals, such as Bats and Monkeys. Note: Monkeys and non-human primates are NOT ALLOWED without approved permits from your governing body. The seller cannot obtain that clearance on your behalf... if they say they can, it is not real.
- Frequently Asked Questions about Animal Importation [link]
Here there is a very large number of questions, and make for very good reading indeed. One of these leads to the next point.
- Notice of Internet Adoption Scams Involving Imported Pets [link]
The article says very much the same as we do here, and warns people to be very wary indeed. Although primarily focused on Monkey scam, it is also sober reading for other prospective pet purchasers too.
By using common sense and logic you can avoid most types of scams, including this big one. The pictures of the pets may look cute and cuddly but until you actually *see* the animal in question, you do not know if it actually exists. Once again to reiterate the point:-
If you cannot see the animal in person, DO NOT part with a single piece of your cash.
If you are on a tight budget, or you really need to find a pet quickly, please consider the following. Visit a pet shelter in your vicinity. They are usually run by national or local charity organizations or even by local government schemes. Many animals end up in these places that need the love of a good family. Many will have been dumped on the street, abused, and all have been rescued. Many are put-down (destroyed) because no home can be found for them. You will not only help to save the animal, but you will doing something that will make you and your family feel great about.