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Beware Of Internet Puppy Scam

Once again, the old adage is correct: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

In recent weeks, an e-mail plea has blanketed the Internet, similar to a classified advertisement that has appeared in newspapers all over the country, offering high-end pedigreed puppies for bargain basement prices — $200 for a Yorkshire Terrier that would normally sell for up to 10 times the price.

The e-mail pleas and classifieds say that the author is a dog breeder who is on a religious mission in Africa and needs to unload the puppies — to good homes — as soon as possible. Those interested are told to send their money (to cover shipping and handling) to an address in Nigeria and the dogs would arrive in several weeks.

Not surprisingly, the puppies never arrive.

Joy Schick was hoping to add a Yorkie to her family when she spotted a classified ad in her local Florida paper. "I found one for $450, which almost sounded too good to be true," she told The Early Show consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen.

She sent an email, and got an immediate response from the owner, who was in Africa, asking Joy to send money to pay for shipping the dog to the U.S. "But he wanted me to wire the money and I delayed doing it before I checked out a few more things and then I decided it was a hoax."

She eventually did get her puppy, Fred, but she purchased the dog from a local breeder. "To take advantage of people who are looking for someone to love — it's just not right," Schick said.

Koeppen herself made contact with the scammers: "When I got online requesting information about puppies, it didn't take long for me to get several e-mail responses — all of them from people with puppies who needed good homes — all of them happened to be on a mission in Africa," she reported.

Reputable breeders like Christopher Vicari say the Internet scams have been going on for a while. Vicari, who breeds sweet-faced, snowy white Maltese, says the scammers are so bold, they actually swipe photos of his dogs from his Web site and use them as part of their sales pitch: "This is common," he said. (Vicari has posted some general consumer guidelines for Maltese breeders on his Web site.)

According to Claire Rosenzweig, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau, "The scammers who do reach out in this way are out for one thing and it's not to give you a puppy. There never were any puppies there never will be any puppies because the scammer will walk away with one thing — your money."

The American Kennel Club, which represents reputable breeders all over the country, and the BBB have issued a warning about the scam.

Among the guidelines they suggest potential puppy parents should follow:

  • Beware of breeders who seem overly concerned about getting paid.
  • Don't be fooled by a slick Web site.
  • Take your time and beware of breeders who claim to have multiple breeds ready to ship immediately.
  • Report a scam to your local authorities as well as their local Better Business Bureau ( Questions can also be directed to AKC Customer Service (919-233-9767). To read the complete warning from the AKC and the BBB, click here.

    Koeppen also had some common sense suggestions on how not to get scammed:

  • Don't wire money.
  • If at all possible, meet the breeder before you buy the dog.
  • Take your time. Don't be pressured into purchasing a puppy by slick salesmanship.

    The Maltese that appeared on The Early Show plaza were provided by Gold Star Puppies,