I have some horrible news, everyone: online hackers have finally gone one step too far.
Instead of just using cute online cat pictures to lure in victims, hackers and scammers are now using cute dog pictures.
The epidemic is reportedly sweeping across the world and it’s not your conventional security problem. Here’s how these puppy scammers most often work:
-Scammers post a picture of a dog on reputable dog selling websites in the United States
-These dog pictures are often accompanied by some sob story about moving away, not being able to take the dog, etc.
-Dogs are often sold for a price lower than market value
-Once someone falls for the scam and is prepared to buy the dog, then all sorts of hidden fees and charges appear
This actually happened and it could happen to you
The most notable case occurred this past week in Denver, Colorado, when a 19 year old woman tried to buy a cute Siberian husky puppy online for just $320.
The husky was listed as a purebred, making the $320 price tag seem like a bargain. After contacting the seller, the woman received more cute puppy pictures along with a seemingly-official registration certificate.
That’s when things went sour. The agency called and demanded $1,600 for insurance. Insurance was required to cover the cost of shipping the puppy from Washington State to Colorado. That money was to be returned upon delivery.
Time passed and no puppy appeared in Colorado. The woman received another email stating that the puppy had only made it as far as neighboring Idaho before needing more vaccinations and a new kennel. That cost $1,000.
That still didn’t get the puppy to Colorado. Later, the woman received another email saying the puppy had made it to Vegas but was in “puppy quarantine” and required $4,500 in order to be released.
That’s when the woman started thinking this was a scam, but by then it was way too late. She’s now out $3,000 and the seller is nowhere to be found.
Upon further research, it was discovered that this scam had occurred to people across the United States. In all of these scams, the seller used a fake registration certificate from a real registration company: American Pet Registry.
How to protect yourself from online scams
Nigerian scammers have gone relatively quiet over the next few years. But it’s easy to resist the faceless emails of a Nigerian prince online. Who could resist a puppy with a face like this?
Ignore the temptation and always think twice (or three times) before you give away personal information online.
You should also perform a reverse image search to see where that puppy image came from. To do that, open Google.ca and drag and drop images into the search engine box (trust me, it works). Or, just upload pictures using the Reverse Image Search tool. If the puppy picture appears on hundreds of other websites, it’s probably not original and you are probably being scammed.
Always request a dog registration certificate and confirm that the registration is real by calling the registration company. In all of the puppy scams so far, the registration certificates have been from real companies but do not contain genuine registration codes.
Ultimately, the most important thing to remember in cases like this is to detach yourself emotionally from the case. Treat buying a puppy online like it was an ordinary transaction. Instead of picturing your new puppy shivering in some kennel in Idaho needing vaccinations, take a step back and realizing you’re sending $1,000 to an anonymous seller online.