Tuesday, December 5, 2006
Carmel on the Case: Dog Dilemma
There could be a lot of broken-hearted children Christmas morning. Just in time for the holidays, internet scammers have come up with a new way to separate consumers from their cash. The latest twist involves paying for puppies overseas. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On the Case.
WSVN -- Experts say the holidays are not the best time of the year to bring a new puppy into the family, but we do it anyway.
Christina Dajoh: "I wanted to get a puppy for her for Christmas."
Christina Dajoh couldn't say no to her 5-year-old, Alyssa, when she had her heart set on a tiny yorkie. That's when she found this little guy on the internet. The price -- a very low $200.
Christina Dajoh: "They told me to send them the two hundred Western Union, they couldn't accept PayPal because they didn't have a PayPal account and they know nothing about it."
Coincidentally, at the same time Dajoh was doling out the dollars, another Christina, Christina Balseiro, was also buying a puppy online.
Christina Balseiro: "I e-mailed about an ad that was for a bulldog that was located in Cameroon, Africa and had a very appealing price."
So, Balseiro wired the seller $400.
Christina Balseiro: "I thought, 'What an easy process. I would have my dog within a few days, and that would be the end of it.'"
If only! It turns out the seller kept asking for more money, and she kept sending it.
Christina Balseiro: "I received an e-mail saying that I needed to pay $210 more for a crate."
Christina Balseiro: "Then I received another e-mail asking for another $200. Then, I received an e-mail asking for $300."
Balseiro shelled out a staggering $1,100 for a puppy that never arrived. Dajoh's puppy never showed up either. Both were victims of a new scam that appears to be based out of Africa.
While Nigeria and neighboring areas are notorious for internet rip-offs, this latest canine con appears to be a new low.
John Wesley: "It seems to be growing, especially the time of year we're getting into now, the holidays."
John Wesley, of Miami-Dade's Consumer Protection Services, isn't surprised by the scam. He cautions all buyers -- send your money to a stranger in a foreign country, and you can kiss it goodbye.
John Wesley: "Once they have your money, it's hard to get it back."
Christina Dajoh: "And when I asked for my money back, he says, 'Well, your money was already spent. I don't have to give you a dime.'"
But there are warning signs. Look for e-mails with poor grammar and misspelled words. Also, be very wary if you are asked to wire money, especially out of the country. Then there's the issue of price."
John Wesley: "If there's an average price of a dog between a $1000 and $1,500 and it's substantially less than that, there's got to be some reason why."
Unfortunately, all of that is impossible to explain to a 5-year-old.
Christina Dajoh: "She's still waiting for the puppy. She still thinks the puppy is coming in the mail."
And, if money is an issue, here's an option: there are thousands of pets desperate for homes at Humane Societies and Animal Control facilities. The price is right, and they'll love you forever, and that's priceless.