25/11/2008

Christmas Puppy Scam Alert

Consumers are losing out financially and emotionally to unscrupulous con artists, offering non-existent pets for sale online.

That was the message from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment's Trading Standards Service (TSS) today, as it issued a warning to any consumers thinking about buying a puppy from the internet this Christmas.

Kevin McNamara, Trading Standards' Inspector explains how the scam typically works: "An online advertisement will offer a puppy free for adoption, accompanied by a photograph of the cute pet.

"Upon responding, the buyer is provided with its background story, which normally states that the puppy is from outside Northern Ireland and so the buyer is required to pay its shipping costs.

"However, as soon as payment is sent, usually by wire, instead of receiving the puppy in the picture, the buyer will simply receive more stories, accompanied by more requests for money for necessities such as customs duties, vets' fees, inoculations and insurance.
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"The scammers are taking the hopeful buyer for a financial and emotional ride over a puppy that never existed to begin with," he explained.

TSS has received a number of complaints about these online pet scams and as Christmas approaches, wants to warn consumers to be on their guard.

Kevin McNamara continued: "TSS have received complaints about these scams and some people have paid out hundreds of pounds, before realising the pet they thought they were buying never existed.

"With Christmas approaching, now is a good time for everyone to be aware of these pet scams and to be on the look out for their tell-tale signs. The emails are often written in poor English and there is usually a heart-breaking story behind the reason the puppy is being offered for sale or adoption in the first place," he said, noting that TSS advises everyone against buying a puppy, or indeed any pet, online.

"Consumers should ensure they see the pet in advance in order to satisfy themselves as to its general health and suitability. In addition, never, ever wire money to a stranger overseas."

See: www.consumerline.org

(BMcC)

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