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Internet Scam Promises Pets, But Fails to Deliver

- The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is warning potential pet owners not to fall for Internet scams that bilk victims of hundreds of dollars and fail to deliver the animals they promise.

Dr. Walter Woolf, owner of Air Animal Pet Movers, a pet moving service, has researched these scams after his company began being mentioned in recent postings by Cameroon-based scammers promising pets at below-market prices.

The scammers post on popular Internet market sites offering the pets to buyers who wire money to Cameroon or a money-drop in the U.K. Air Animal Pet Movers and other animal transport companies in the United States are listed as carriers in the postings, Dr. Woolf says, to add a layer of legitimacy, even though they are not actually involved.

After sending the initial amount to the scammers, pet owners are then asked for follow-up sums for insurance costs, unexpected veterinary services, permits, or transportation costs, Dr. Woolf says. This continues until the victims realize they have been scammed and stop sending money, and no pets are ever delivered.

Dr. Gail Golab, director of the AVMA Animal Welfare Division, says that potential pet buyers should know who they are purchasing their pets from and should meet with the breeder directly before finalizing a purchase; this allows the buyer to see the conditions under which the pet has been bred and raised.

"Many reputable breeders, who are concerned about making sure the pet receives a suitable home, will not sell animals unless they are able to meet and interview their potential owner or owners," Dr. Golab says. "If extenuating circumstances prevent you from meeting with a breeder face-to-face, you should check references and credentials first, and never send money without speaking to the breeder."

If you believe you have been the victim of a scam, you should contact local authorities and file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org).

In the end, Dr. Woolf says that the best advice to remember is the old adage, "If it's too good to be true, it probably is."

For more information, contact Michael San Filippo, AVMA media relations assistant, at 847-285-6687 (office), 847-732-6194 (cell), or msanfilippo@avma.org.