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Duped of R6 400 in Pet Scam

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Cape Town – If you’re in the market for a pure breed puppy or kitten, be very careful of tempting online classified adverts. Unscrupulous operators could cost the unwary a pretty penny, as a Fin24 user who was duped out of R6 400 discovered to his detriment.

Judging from his experience, the tried-and-tested pet scam originating from Cameroon seems to have taken a local twist. Any popular breed like Siamese cats, teacup terriers and Jack Russel puppies could be a target.

The scam works like this: you are either offered a pet for free as the owner is in some kind of difficult situation (“I just want it to go to a good home”) or at a very competitive price. “I supposedly bought an English bulldog pup for R1 900,” said a Fin24 user.

In this case the price alone should have set off alarm bells, as properly registered pups usually go for anything from R8 000 right up to R13 000, according to registered breeders.

The pet has to be flown in from another town or somewhere abroad, and the buyer is contacted to cough up cash for a pet carrier, “fully refundable” according to the very official and authentic-looking documentation forwarded to the buyer. The Fin24 user continues his tale: “I received an email from pet port to say I need a special crate to transport the pup, for which a deposit of R2 750 was paid.”

But that’s not all: next step is the notification that further funds are needed for a pet health certificate. “Today they advised that the pup’s health certificate expired and I paid a further R1 750,” tells the user. Then comes a request for “pet insurance”. The user recounts that “flight details were sent and everything was in order until they asked for an additional R5 100 deposit for pet insurance; only then did I realise that I had been scammed… R6 400 hard-earned money extorted”.

What’s really needed

Pets transported locally do not need any health certification or special insurance. Any animal flown in from outside South Africa will not be permitted to enter the country without an import certificate issued by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Pets on international flights will not be allowed to board any plane without a valid health certificate stamped by the owner’s own vet as well as the state vet of the country in question. Insurance is not needed.

Identity theft also comes into play in pet scams, as the buyer always seems to be provided with genuine South African ID documentation. In the case of the Fin24 user, the seller – who used the name Sandra Prinsloo, presumably no relation to the famous actress – “had given me an address in Kimberley and also provided me with her ID and driver’s licence”.

Your best recourse, says Ansa Wessels of Jucharanzi breeders, is to insist on personally viewing any puppy you wish to buy as well as its parents. “If you can’t view them in person, don’t even think of buying,” says Wessels. It also helps to google the seller’s address: “If it’s some place like a warehouse, don’t even touch it,” she cautions.

Scammers prey on emotions and will shamelessly exploit a situation such as a heartbroken owner who’s just lost a beloved companion and isn’t as careful as they would normally be.

Bottom line: be extra vigilant when buying pets online and remember, any deal that sounds too good to be true is probably just that.

Disclaimer: This article makes use of material independently written by a member of the Fin24 community. The views of users published on Fin24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent those of Fin24.