Nigerian puppy scam hits the Internet
(5/07/07) -- Puppies are big business. Puppies sold over the Internet are a big part of that business. Now the bad guys are muscling in.
You can easily spend a thousand dollars on a purebreed puppy. The toy dogs, like Yorkshires and Maltese, run $1,600 dollars and more. With prices like that, consumers often go looking for deals.Rebecca Aobaugh now has the dog of her dreams -- a teacup toy Maltese. Rebecca Aobaugh, dog owner: "I paid $1,600 dollars for her -- my husband paid $1,600 dollars for her." But before paying that price tag, she paid a higher price in lost innocence and a few hundred extra dollars. It all started when Rebecca responded to an Internet ad for a free puppy, owned by a poster who said he could no longer afford to care for the animal. Rebecca Aobaugh: "There was always a line in there that always got me. It was, 'please, please promise me that you'll send me pictures of my puppy.' So that kind of pulled at my heart strings and that's why I went for that." She sent $200 dollars for shipping of the dog to Cameroon, Africa. No dog arrived. An employee of Delta Airlines told Rebecca this could be a scam. Rebecca Aobaugh: "I said, no it's not a scam. How could it be a scam? How could people scam you for a puppy?" Then came a request for an additional $600 dollars. She didn't fall for it and that's how she ended up buying this little guy. So we went online looking for a free toy dog and found a Yorkie right away on Craigslist. The owner said he was from Hayesville, North Carolina and a Peace Corps volunteer, but he misspelled "corps." Stationed at Cameroon, the climate is too hot for the dog. There is no adoption fee, just pay for shipping. So we responded with an e-mail. "Sounds good, what do I do next?" we wrote. He writes back with his telephone number and we call Cameroon. Federal regulations don't allow us to play his side of the conversation, but here's what transpired. We ask, "are these the actual pictures of the dog?" He replies, "Exactly! Those are the present of the puppy." Odd wording for a southerner and his accent wasn't familiar. We ask, "you're from North Carolina?" He says, "exactly." We ask again, "so that's the accent I'm hearing, is a North Carolina accent?" His response, "please I can't hear you, please the lines not good." At first he says shipping will cost $480 dollars, but drops it to $280 dollars. Over the course of a week of e-mails we talk him down to $200 dollars, then $150 dollars and finally $100 dollars to ship a dog from Africa to San Francisco. We send him nothing. Stacey Myrice sold Rebecca her dog. Michael Finney: "Have you heard of this before?" Stacey Myrice, dog seller: "Yeah." Michael Finney: "A lot?" Stacey Myrice: "Yeah, absolutely... They've moved, they can't keep the dog anymore. They're looking for this wonderful home. A missionary, they'll say they're missionaries and it's always God bless at the end." Michael Finney: "Did you know that this scam has a name?" Rebecca Aobaugh: "No." Michael Finney: "The Nigerian puppy scam." Rebecca Aobaugh: "The lady at Delta Airlines said something about that. She said something and you know, I didn't want to believe her." We checked with the Peace Corps and were told there is no volunteer named Jamcrystal Halmkay stationed as a volunteer in Cameroon. By the way, Jamcrystal stopped our e-mail exchange when I continued questioning his identity. Copyright 2007, ABC7/KGO-TV/DT.
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