Scammers operate in many fields, and the field of animals is no exception. When we realised that our company name was being used by scammers to add legitimacy to their operations, we quickly published a web page of hints and tips aimed at helping people avoid getting scammed.

A typical animal-related scam revolves around offering an animal for free — such as a puppy, a parrot or a monkey — via email or the internet, with only the cost of the transport to be paid. The scammer says they will arrange the animal’s transport on behalf of the client. The client is then asked to pay the transport costs by money transfer (Western Union or MoneyGram), often to a payee in Cameroon.

Whether or not you notice anything else odd about the communication, such as poor spelling and grammar or unusual-looking phone numbers, two things should alert you to the likelihood that it’s a scam:

  • The animal being offered for free
  • The request to pay the transport costs (or any other costs, like insurance) by money transfer

When we first published our page about scams, we were getting a couple of calls or emails a week from people worried that they were being scammed. Sadly, many of them checked with us only after they’d arranged the money transfer. Of course, in none of these cases was there ever really an animal, and these poor people were never able to recoup their cash.

These days, we get as many as four or five calls and emails every day. But we’re pleased to say that people are getting smarter — increasingly they’re reading our web page and checking with us before they part with any money.

So remember, if anyone offers you an animal (or anything else, for that matter) and the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And if you’re asked to pay any fees by money transfer, think very hard before you do so — no reputable company will ever ask you to do this.

Two of the people we helped avoid being scammed over the past week were Terrell from the US and Kevin from England. Terrell had been offered two Yorkie pups from Turkey, and Kevin a West Highland pup from Scotland. Based on the information provided on our website and by email, both avoided falling prey to the scammers.

“I thought there was something strange going on, with the person suggesting that they arrange the courier service… Thanks to your website, the scamming info, we haven’t continued with it,” said Kevin.

And from Terrell: “OMG! Thank u sooo much, I have not sent any money! Thanks to u! I really do appreciate it! Ur such a life/money saver! and from now on I will never fall for anything that says FREE on the internet especially if it’s from another country… you’re the best!”