INTERNATIONAL FRAUDSTERS are using puppies as "bait" in the latest money-making internet confidence trick, it was disclosed earlier this week.
The conmen, who are based mostly in Africa or the Middle East, target British dog breeders with bogus requests for puppies. They earn the trust of a breeder during an exchange of e-mails before sending a cheque as a deposit. The cheque is deliberately written out for too much money.
The breeder is then asked to refund the difference. Meanwhile, the cheque bounces, leaving the seller hundreds of pounds out of pocket.
Ryan O'Meara, the editor in chief of the dog magazine K9, said he had been targeted. "I have received e-mails from these people and immediately identified them as bogus," he said. "I was lucky enough to be instantly on my guard probably because I've seen similar scams perpetrated in other areas and because I didn't have puppies available at the time."
Mr O'Meara said the messages were very convincing. They expressed concern about the health and well-being of the animals and explained why the would-be owner wanted a pedigree dog.
Breeders are usually eager to accept deposits prior to sale to discourage people buying dogs on impulse. Once a sale is agreed, the fraudster sends the over-generous deposit cheque, relying on the seller to notice. The buyers usually explain that a mistake has been made because they were excited about owning a new dog.
They ask for the difference to be sent to them so they can start buying food and care equipment, often promising to pay the outstanding amount in cash upon collection.
The Kennel Club advised breeders to exercise caution if confronted with such communications. A spokesman said:
"Unfortunately we are aware of these type of 'scams' and would request that OUR DOGS readers take heed. It would appear that Internet scams are getting increasingly complex with the fraudsters getting more devious with regard to extracting funds from people. If breeders have any concerns whatsoever with regard to the sale of puppies - especially with regard to approaches over the internet - then they certainly should be guarded with information that they make available, and also should not give out bank details. If they have concerns then they should contact the Kennel Club for further advice."