Anatomy of a Pet Transport Scam: You’ll find the adverts in a newspaper or on the internet. A valuable, pedigreed or exotic pet, it announces, needs a home so desperately that its available to you, free of charge. Whether a rare breed of dog, a monkey or macaw, it would be a tragedy to put down such a magnificent creature. The pet is yours as long as you pay for delivery; the pet transport company airfreight costs.
You dial the cell phone number, but no-one answers. Before long you get a call back from another cell phone number. Despite being a reputable pet transport company, no, unfortunately, they do not have landline number at present. Upon excitedly asking questions about your new pet, you are refereed to another cell phone number to speak to the animal breeder who assures you the animal is of the highest pedigree, or of the rarest nature and it would indeed be a tragedy to put it down. You offer to drive the long distance and collect the animal yourself and are talked out of your foolishness! The animal is so precious it must be transported correctly, under proper supervision. Of course, the airfreight cost is such a small price to pay for something so valuable, and despite the bank transfer details being a little strange, you pay. And how wonderful! You receive the thank you email, reminding you what a loving and fantastic person you must be to save this animal, and attached are some heart warming pictures of ‘Pookie’ or ‘Pudgie’; your new pet.
A day or so later, however, the second e-mail arrives pointing out an unforeseen problem. The airline, it seems, simply will not send such a precious animal without the correct insurance. You hesitate and are told that a person from their company will be with the animal for the duration of the flight, overseeing their care. The CITES certificate is already filled out in your name. And additionally, you’re running out of time to save the animal at all. Sounding logical, you pay the additional sum of money to cover the ‘insurance charges’.
You’re given the relevant contact details of the agent of the pet transport company, and the exciting date of arrival. On that morning, you dial the number, feeling the warmth and happiness of your good deed, and anticipation about your gorgeous new pet.. to find that no-one has ever heard of you, or your pet. In fact, the pet never existed and you’ve just been scammed.
How do You Tell The Difference Between a Scam and an Animal in Need? Only a company with long-term experience in the field will be able to catch out a scammer. Please note the following:
- An exotic or pedigreed pet would never be put down – it is simply too valuable
- People are not allowed in an airplane cargo hold
- No animal transport company would dissuade you from collecting an animal yourself
- It is neither legal nor possible to insure an animal for freight travel in South Africa
- Pet transport companies know one another from years in the field and will know a fly-by-night name instantly, for example a fake company ‘Pet Flights’ scammed a lovely lady R8500 for two mythical puppies, sometime last year.
- Reputable companies also know the genuine contact details of all the other real animal transportation companies. Pet Travel agencies’ websites are duplicated and logos used on emails, but with fake cell phone numbers as the contact point.
- No established company will operate only through cell phones or use non standard banking practices such as using a Western Union bank account, or insist on an ABSA to ABSA transfer only, for example
Why are Pet Transport scammers successful? This scam relies on 6 things. First, the rush of emotion of an animal lover to save a threatened animal. Secondly, the sense of getting a bargain by paying so little for such a valuable pet. Third, with the insurance scam, when you’ve paid once its easier to pay a second time. Four, that unless you’ve transported pets already, you will not know the proper procedures, such as getting quotations, updates and having working hour access to your assigned agent on fax, email and landline telephone numbers. Five, that the pictures will keep you believing that the animal exists. Some concerned users simply refuse to believe that they are being scammed, because they saw the photographs. And finally, since the scammers operate on cell phones, there’s no way to trace them once they disappear with your money.
No one should be penalised for giving an animal in need a good home. But unfortunately pet transport scammers are even more active these days than when they started 15 years ago. If buying a pet from a classified ad its essential that you find a way to cross-reference the information you have with a processional animal transport company. Be careful not to become another in a long line of very disappointed animal lovers, with a depleted bank balance.
Check out the Safety & Security section on the Junk Mail blog for more information about scams.
If you have been a victim of a Pet Transport Scam or if you encounter one on the Junk Mail website or in Junk Mail publications, E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 012-3423840 x2295.