A new Internet scam attracts consumers with the offer of a free puppy – but is simply a means of stealing money.
According to the NSPCA, this scam highlights the organisation's position that trading in live animals over the Internet is fraught with dangers and the real victims are the animals themselves.
Animal brokers, puppy-mills, backyard breeders and individuals sourcing dogs for security work are quick to use the Internet for their purposes but are far from upfront in stating who they are, what they do and why they are trying to source animals. Especially “free” animals.
One recent scam drawn to the attention of the NSPCA involves the offer of free puppies. It is a consumer scam, the NSPCA says in a statement.
Photographs appear next to the offer. When carefully viewed, these images have clearly been downloaded from another web site. The puppy (it is claimed) will be sent to the adopter’s address. All communications by e-mail, of course.
"Then an e-mailed message is received that money is required as the puppy is stuck in customs or wherever," says the statement. "You’ve guessed it – there is no puppy.
"People who have paid over money then find the offer of a free puppy moves from web site to web site. It is a scam attracting bargain hunters who feel they are quite literally getting something for nothing and then find, if they are sufficiently gullible, they have been taken for a ride."
Adopting an animal is a lifelong commitment, says te NSPCA. "Do not be taken in by photographs of pretty puppies or the fact that they are being offered free of charge.
"If these advertisements do not start to ring warning bells, the NSPCA does not know how else to warn the public."
The easy, effective and responsible way to end all this is for web sites to stop trading in live animals, it adds.
The NSPCA is looking for web sites willing to place the phrase "We do not trade in live animals" on their sites, with the firm undertaking that they will not do so.