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First-time puppy buyers easy target for internet scammers

DESPITE PREVIOUS warnings in the canine press regarding an internet scam whereby paid-for puppies never arrive, many first-time buyers are still falling victim to the unscrupulous fraudsters.

As previously reported in OUR DOGS the bogus company, which appears to operate from the Cameroon, is advertising puppies for sale on various internet sites, using photos of dogs often stolen from genuine breeders’ websites, or other internet collections. To appear legitimate the fraudsters have been using logos and photographs stolen from bona fide traders’ websites.

A reader who wishes to keep his identity undisclosed, ‘Ray C’, contacted Our Dogs after he was deceived by the internet company when he tried to purchase a Siberian Husky puppy from their website. He came across the advert for a pup when he typed ‘Siberian Husky’ into the Google search engine; from the results he found an advertisement which said a family who had recently relocated to Belfast, were having to find a new home for a husky puppy. The dog had belonged to the daughter of the people who placed the advert. Ray was told that the daughter had been tragically killed by a drunk driver and they could not keep the dog. They asked for £100 as a payment, since it was being re-homed, and was not bred by the family. Ray paid the £100 and waited for the puppy to arrive.

Extra costs

The pup never arrived and Ray then received an email claiming that the cost of shipping the puppy from Belfast to England was going to cost a further £800 to cover the insurance, which was to be provided by Pet Express Services Ltd, a part of Pethealth Inc. At this point Ray realised he had been conned and refused to pay any more money, which led to him receiving a number of telephone calls and emails some of which were very unpleasant. Ray contacted the police without hesitation.

‘I am worried as these people have all my contact details, address, telephone, and email address,’ he told Our Dogs.

OUR DOGS immediately contacted Pethealth Inc. to warn them that the scammers had plagiarised their logos and are currently using their UK subsidiary Pet Express UK insurance logo and photographs in the scam. A spokeswoman for the company told Our Dogs that they were shocked to find out that their logos were being used by fraudsters, and would be looking into changing their website to protect their photographs and logos in the future. All evidence of the fraudsters’ use of the company logos have been passed back to Pet Express Insurance and Pethealth Inc. as this scam is a worldwide problem.

In one email from the bogus company Ray was told that the Siberian husky puppy was registered with the Kennel Club, and the KC registration papers would be sent with the puppy. Our Dogs asked Ray why he had not simply gone to the Kennel Club website in the first place. His response was that the Kennel Club website did not come up when he typed ‘husky puppy’ into Google. On hearing this, Our dogs did some detective work and searched for a number of different breeds, including popular and rarer breeds, and each time the Kennel Club’s website did not come up in the top 50 sites listed! In a search for a Labrador puppy the top listing was the Labrador forums and close up behind that the Daily Mail was ranked in the top 50. In a search for a Papillon puppy TV vet Marc Abraham was in the top 50 along with Our Dogs, whilst in a search for a Lancashire Heeler the American Kennel Club was in the top 50 and the only reference relating the breed by the Kennel Club directed the enquirer to the Lancashire Heeler breed standard.

However, when we searched for ‘Accredited Breeder’ the Kennel Club came up at the top of the list. Our Dogs contacted the Kennel Club for a response.

Key search terms

Caroline Kisko, the Kennel Club’s Communications Director, told us: ‘As an organisation we continuously review our search engine optimisation strategies so that we are the first point of contact for prospective owners to come to when looking for a puppy. This is an ongoing process, and the KC Accredited Breeder Scheme has proven very successful in helping people find the right breeder and puppy.

‘In terms of our search engine optimisation, we have good placing for many key phrases, such as “Litter registration”, “Dog activities”, “Buying a dog”, “Pedigree dog”, “Pedigree puppy”, “Dog health” and “Dog breeding” and we are constantly monitoring and updating our key words and breed specific pages. Overall the Kennel Club website and its associated applications are an invaluable resource for dog lovers everywhere and those new to the dog world. Further to our news release last week, the Kennel Club’s Find a Puppy search application has seen an 11 percent increase on searches from the same period last year, with over 220,000 searches carried out every month so far in 2009.

‘We are aware that there are a number of unscrupulous people selling puppies on the internet and we promote Accredited Breeders, and other breeders who register their dogs with the KC by promoting Find a Puppy through a wide range of online and offline media - including, Exchange and Mart, Loot, as well as sponsored links. Our advice to potential puppy owners is that they should always buy from a Kennel Club Accredited Breeder regardless of how they search for a dog,’ concluded Ms. Kisko.

Ray now has a Siberian Husky puppy from a reputable breeder. He told us: ‘I have learnt my lesson, and would advise anybody looking for a pedigree puppy to find a reputable breeder via the Kennel Club and the breed clubs.’

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Sorry to say, that's what happens when folks do not research a breed, then look for a Good Breeder in their area, or a short drive from where they live.