Couple learns new tricks of 'Net pet scam
Jan 06, 2013 (The Dominion Post - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
IF YOU have been the recent target of a scam and are willing to share your story, email news email@example.com. IF YOU are interested in finding an animal to adopt, you can check with local shelters or The Dominion Post's daily classified section.
Diane Eagle saw a photo online of two Maltese puppies and she fell in love.
So did her son. And her husband.
The listing -- which she found by searching "free toy puppies West Virginia" -- said the puppies were free and were at a home in Beckley.
It would be a bit of a drive from their Masontown home, but the Eagles figured it was worth it for the gorgeous, purebred pups.
As it turned out, there were no puppies. Someone, likely in Africa, was trying to scam them out of $350. Thankfully, the Eagles caught on before it was too late.
Eagle said it all started when she emailed the lister Tuesday. She received an email back with an application, similar to those rescue groups provide to potential adopters. The Eagles quickly sent it back and a woman responded via email, noting that the family would be perfect to adopt the dogs.
The woman -- she said her name was "Belinda" -- provided a telephone number to reach her, but asked that it only be used for text messages.
Eagle said she tried calling the number, but the exchange couldn't accept phone calls.
She asked Belinda if they could pick up the puppies this weekend -- that's when Belinda told her that she and the dogs were in Minnesota not Beckley.
However, Belinda quickly came up with a solution. She said she'd arrange to have the puppies flown to Morgantown by Southwest Airlines. She asked Eagle to wire $350 to a man at "Southwest." But Eagle was told she couldn't contact him by telephone either.
Eagle said that information prompted her to look up the telephone number for Southwest Airlines online. She called that num- ber and was told "no" they did not have her puppies to deliver and that the number Belinda gave her wasn't even a Minnesota number. She said she thought Eagle was being scammed.
Eagle contacted Belinda again and told her she thought the whole thing was a scam. To ease her concerns, Belinda finally gave her a telephone number that she could be used to speak to someone with at "the airline," that she now called "Southwest Delivery."
Although Belinda claimed the number was for a location in Minnesota, Eagle said she contacted her phone company and found out it is an exchange for the United Republic of Cameroon, a region in central Africa, and had she called it, it would have cost her $5 a minute.
"That's when it hit me. All these little tiny red flags that seemed odd," Eagle said. "They were magnified.
"Sometimes all it takes is someone saying to you, 'Are you sure you're not being scammed ' "
Assistant State Attorney General Doug Davis said although some legitimate breeders do sell puppies online, he doesn't recommend doing so unless you know exactly who you are dealing with.
Davis said he hadn't heard of the "puppy scam" recently in West Virginia, but said it has been reported here in recent years.
Last month, a Pittsburgh woman reported a scam almost identical to the one Eagle experienced, news reports said.
Davis said wiring money is dangerous when you don't know the person you are sending it to because once they pick it up, you are not going to get it back. Anyone who insists you wire money and refuses to let you pay another way could be trying to scam you.
Davis said buying a puppy in person is a better idea than via the Internet.
"Go find a seller, check it out and make sure the dog appears healthy to you before you buy it," he said.
That's what the Eagles plan to do now. They are hoping to find another Maltese at a local animal shelter.
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