Online scams are wide ranging and the world of animal welfare is not spared.
Fraud artists know that people often lead with their hearts, not their heads, when it comes to buying an animal, especially a puppy or kitten, so in some ways they're the easiest of pickings.
At the most basic level, the Internet provides an easy and wide-reaching platform for those hoping to sell animals that may be sick, not exactly as advertised, or not even owned by the seller (think of the Gail Benoits of the world).
It also allows poor breeders to peddle their wares easily and with little or no cost. They can also draw buyers in with cute photos that may gloss over a pet's imperfections or health issues.
Kijiji has been slammed over the years for allowing the sale — or worse “free to a good home" — of live animals via its network.
A few years ago, the online ad company compromised and now makes sellers buy an ad for $4.99 with a credit card, which supposedly will weed out the crooks and provide identifying information. Of course, those determined to scam find ways around this.
Kijiji also bans crooks like Gail Benoit from advertising on the site, another barrier the determined can get around.
But, really, that's just shooting the messenger. Buyers must be much more savvy and proactive in these transactions.
Here are some recent examples of fraud related to pets.
In the news recently was the sad case of an Annapolis Valley breeder, ill with cancer, who was taken by fraud artist when he wrote a cheque for two of her Great Pyrenees puppies. While she was sick in hospital, the creep returned one of the pups to her daughter, who refunded the money. Then the original cheque bounced.
He got away with the refunded money and one of the puppies, whose whereabouts today is unknown. He was recently sentenced to 40 months in prison for various fraud-related activities.
In this case the buyer and seller met in person, but unfortunately the swindler took advantage of her illness to line his pockets (he probably sold the other pup for a tidy profit).
Lately, there have been accounts of people falling for the sweet faces of puppies seen online that they'd like to buy from so-called breeders.
Seeing the ads on places like Kijiji or Facebook, trusting souls who didn't do their due diligence by meeting the puppies and the seller instead shipped off down payments for the pets sight unseen.
Then on delivery day — poof — the seller and dogs were nowhere to be found.
Chances are the dogs never really existed in the first place. They were likely just pictures of cute, usually more expensive purebred pups, found with a quick Google search.
So, what can we learn from these cases?
First and foremost, always meet the seller and the animal you're buying before any money changes hands. Nova Scotia is a small province. Drive there and see the pet, and preferably the parents of the pup or kitten in the case of purebreds.
Never assume a cute animal that you see in a photo exists. Again, meet the animal and seller in person. And, I might add, at the seller's home. Not a gas station parking lot.
If a seller is willing to sell you a pet sight unseen, that's a big red flag.
And, oh yeah, don't believe anything you read on the Internet.