Beware the Nigerian Puppy Scam

March 3, 2008 · Print This Article · Email This Post

English Bulldog

Beware the Nigerian puppy scam, which has resurfaced in Las Vegas and sounded real enough to the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper, which ran an ad for a scammer offering an English Bulldog puppy — an expensive breed — for free. Despite the fact that the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Better Business Bureau warned about the scam last year, several other newspapers around the country in addition to the Review Journal also fell for the “free puppy” scam and ran similar classified ads. Because the physique of Engllish bulldogs often requires artificial insemination and Caesarean section births, the going price for AKC-registered puppies is typically $3,000 — and up.

Nigerian Puppy Scam Classified Ad

The classified ad in the Review Journal began running on February 22; on February 23, Justin Gariott, a 29-year-old telecommunications technician, saw the ad and jumped at the chance to adopt a bulldog puppy. He e’mailed “Pastor Simpson Peter,” named as the contact person in the ad. But Gariott had the good sense to be alarmed by the reply e’mail he received; typical, scam e’mails from foreign countries have numerous misspellings and poor grammar. The response read: “Yes i [sic] have some puppies left for free adoption…But sorry, i’m prensently [sic] in Africa on a Missionary [sic] program with my wife at ( CAC) [sic] Christ Apostles Church here in west-Africa [sic].” The sender then asked Gariott for personal contact information so the puppy could be shipped to him, and, to make it seem realistic, the name of the nearest airport. Gariott was also encouraged to call a Nigerian telephone number. The bulldog puppy was to be shipped via Express Pets Delivery — which doesn’t exist. After Gariott told the “pastor” that he thought he was being scammed, he never heard from the Nigerian again.

Debbi Golding, a Las Vegas area resident active in the Bulldog Club of America, says she gets several phone calls a year from people victimized by the puppy scammers. Julie Babcock, who owns and shows the breed, has also heard from people stung by the scammers. Sometimes, Yorkshire Terrier puppies are offered instead. Patricia Armstrong, with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Phoenix, says this scam “is just the latest thing.” The puppy scam is particularly effective because readers assume that an ad published in their local paper is legitimate, and because people browsing classified ads about pets are actively looking for pets, as opposed to being solicited.

English Bulldog Puppy

When the Review-Journal contacted the Nigerian to ask about puppies, the paper was sent four pictures of bulldog puppies. When staff called the Nigerian phone number, they were told that only one puppy was available, and it was sick and in the hospital. In further e’mail, the Nigerian said he could ship the dog for $355, using the nonexistent Express Pets service. This would still be a bargain for an English bulldog. When asked if the offer was legitimate, the Nigerian responded: “I am a man of God. I cannot scam you.” Uh-huh. Once the fish is on the hook, so to speak, mysterious new problems arise in shipping the puppy — the dog has become ill and needs veterinary care and medicine, or an official needs to be bribed to faciliate shipment. In the end, the would-be dog owner is out $1,000 or more. And there never was a puppy.

Read more canine news, about four new dog breeds recently recognized by the American Kennel Club.

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