Advance Fee Scammers Now Exploiting Cute Puppies

The latest iteration of the so-called 419 advance fee scam features adorable puppies to win the hearts and bank accounts of Craigs List and readers.

[Michelle Waltenburg of Tacoma] was on the Craigslist web site looking at the classified ads for pets when she came across an ad for a “lovely English bulldog puppy needing a loving and caring home.”

“Something about the way they worded it jumped out at me,” she said. “It was an adorable little bulldog puppy, just sitting there, looking at the camera. That’s it. That’s all it takes.”

Michelle responded and got a quick reply from a James Campbell. He claimed to be an American working in Cameroon. He said he wanted someone in the United States to adopt his bulldog puppy, Suzy, because the weather in Africa was no good for her.

“And he said, ‘No, there’s no fee, but I need you to pay for the puppy to be flown home,’ ” Waltenburg recalled. “And I said, ‘Oh cool. I can do that,’ having no idea what was involved.”

Waltenburg thought she was going to get a purebred puppy for free, as long as she paid for the shipping, which the “seller” said had to be wired via Western Union.

Michelle sent him $180. That’s when the requests for more money started coming in.

“Unfortunately, there never was a dog and you’re never going to get your money back,” said Alison Preszler, with the National Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Thanks for the sugar coating, Better Business Bureau. Here is how to avoid the scam: Never wire money to a stranger; and while we’re not ones to stir the xenophobic stew, in this case, it also helps to buy American.

Scam artists using puppies to steal your money [KOMO 4 via All Consuming]
(Photo: anyoungkevin)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Hinomura says:

    if you’re dumb enough to wire money then it’s your own fault. I mean no one in his right mind would buy an iPod from craiglist without first checking the product or attempting to meet in person. how is this puppy any different?

  2. Trai_Dep says:

    Nooo, not the puppies!

    You know, one of these days, Camaroon is going to have a REAL puppy crisis and when the world turns a deaf ear, they’ll have no one else but themselves to blame.

  3. UpsetPanda says:

    Wow. What an idiot. I don’t care how cute the puppy is, or whatever it is. Sending someone money in advance is just stupid. And buying a pet off Craig’s List? What the heck?

  4. GreatCaesarsGhost says:

    we’re not ones to stir the xenophobic stew, in this case, it also helps to buy American.

    Well that’s good to know. Course, you could have just not said it. Because if the offer was from someone in Alabama, it would have been safe?

    Unfortunately, we live in a country where most people know very little about the rest of the world. If we associate every act of a criminal with his nationality, people will assume that nation is full of criminals. Ask a Nigerian how this has worked out for them.

  5. Trai_Dep says:

    @MissJ: Umm, err. Actually I adapted a WONDERFUL bengal kitty from Craigslist. They’re awesome. Esp for rescue organizations.

  6. Miss Anthropy says:

    Let’s not forget how much greed factors into this. Many of these people are trying to get a purebred puppy for cheap instead of adopting one of the many, many (equally “adorable”) puppies that need rescuing at their local humane society.

    Most sane people know that something for nothing = scam. Something for nothing + Craigslist + Cameroon = huge scam. I’m astounded at how people seem to lose all common sense when money is on the line.

    (And yes, Craigslist is a great way to find pets in need of homes, which is why it’s funny that the woman in Tacoma was taken in. She would have had to pass up many other pets in need, probably some being given away for free, before she decided to go for the suspiciously cheap purebred puppy.)

  7. mystes says:

    I would like to point out that, although this is a scam, it is not actually a 419 scam, in that the scammers don’t send an invalid check and then request money back before it has cleared.

  8. Parting says:

    @trai_dep: Exactly. You can find lots of animals that need a home, and they will make you happy.

    If you really want a purebred ”shipped” to you, at least use a reputable breeder.

  9. Parting says:

    If it’s too good to be true…

    Wait, would you ship a small puppy by air plain, where the poor dog would be stuck for hours to US?
    Wouldn’t you check with customs first? What permits you need, etc.
    And call an airline? To see how much cost the ticket for a dog? (in costs about 250$ + different fees from Canada to UK. To Africa, it’s probably double)


  10. As said before, I don’t care how cute the damn puppy is, I’m not wiring money to anyone, sight unseen. That should be a basic common sense rule.

  11. Xkeeper says:

    @GreatCaesarsGhost: I think the point is that 99.9% of these kind of things from out of the country (especially African countries) are usually scams, whereas a significantly lower amount come from the US and other well-developed countries (e.g. Europe, Canada)

  12. locode21 says:

    Craigslist bans all pet ads, so not only was the person a moron for sending money, but they didn’t see the “[ please flag pet sales ] ” text on each and every listing.

    And seriously, people who fall for these things must have the IQ of a rutabaga. Oh yeah, but so does your president.

  13. Dr_awesome says:

    there is an alarming number of deuches who post in the comment section on this site :(

  14. snazz says:

    @Dr_awesome: like douches that dont know how to spell properly?

  15. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    Where’s the “bad consumer” tag? If Michelle was serious about getting a bulldog, she should have done some research on the breed. She would have found out that animals with short snouts (bulldogs, pugs, etc) have difficulty breathing at high altitudes. Flying a bulldog from Africa to Tacoma would most certainly result in the dog arriving dead.

  16. RagingTowers says:

    I think as a general rule:

    Never do business with Africa.

    You will either get ripped off or get AIDS, or worse, both.

  17. Trai_Dep says:

    I shudder to think how someone getting a dog is at risk of catching AIDS. (gulp)

  18. jwissick says:

    Turn off Africa’s net access. They are not ready for the net.

  19. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:

    This post and thread are on internet scams. Please keep comments on topic.

  20. Benny Gesserit says:

    @Xkeeper: Canada well developed? (blushing) Well, we HAVE been working out lately.

  21. Trai_Dep says:

    Err, I think they were referring to the firm Loony in your amply bulging Canadian jeans there, sailor. :D

    PS: seriously – ANYone considering getting a pet, think pet rescue, CL or another non-profit. Much better, more stable, groovy, etc. You’ll do your home and (in a small way) the world a good deed.

  22. GearheadGeek says:

    @locode21: Craigslist bans all pet SALES. They specifically except “re-homing with a small adoption fee” from that, and this guy structured the scam such that the money was supposedly for expenses to get the imaginary puppy to the US.

  23. Hawk07 says:


    “Unfortunately, we live in a country where most people know very little about the rest of the world. If we associate every act of a criminal with his nationality, people will assume that nation is full of criminals. Ask a Nigerian how this has worked out for them.”

    Except Nigeria is known for pulling this type of stuff. won’t sell to that country because of the sheer amount of fraud that takes place there.

  24. Hawk07 says:

    I wonder if the standard of living in Nigeria has gone up since the Internet was brought there. It seems that with all the scams they keep pulling on Westerners, they ought to be living pretty high by now.

  25. marsneedsrabbits says:

    Craigslist does not ban pet *ads*, they ban pet *sales*. One can post a pet re-homing ad on Craigslist at any time. You can give pets away on Craigslist at any time or ask for a re-homing fee to discourage people from getting animals cheap and doing bad things with them.

  26. RottNDude says:

    That IS a ridiculously cute puppy.

  27. thalia says:

    I got an email like this several months ago from a nun telling me the weather in Africa was too much for her poor little poopsykins puppy. Knowing it was a scam (she claimed her puppy needed to have a good home and only the best, most trustworthy owner…and she didn’t even know me, so that pretty much blew her cover), I replied and said I would love to have her puppy, and made several subtle hints that I had every intension of eating it when it got here. She still tried to sell it to me! I replied and made my intentions a bit more obvious and she stopped bothering me. I love playing with scammers :)

  28. whatdoyoucare says:

    For some hilarious stories of people fighting back against 419 scams visit . You wouldn’t believe some of the absurd things the scammers will do to get you to send money to them.

  29. Craig says:

    Come on people, it’s 2007…haven’t we learned anything? If you still fall for something like this you deserve to lose the money…consider it a lesson fee.

  30. We have found the face of true evil. Exploiting puppies and kittens for profit? SHAME!

  31. dzosh says:

    @Nursethalia: You’re right, responding to 419 scams can be pretty fun. However, it’s always idea to do so with a throwaway email account that you don’t use for anything else, so they can’t track you in any way – these are criminals that you are dealing with.

  32. nidolke says:

    It says all over Craigslist not to wire money to people. If she did, then she’s stupid, and deserves to lose her $180.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Actually, it is a 419 scam. 419 is the statute in Nigeria for Advanced Fee Fraud, where they get you to send money (wired, typically) in advance as part of the fraud. Although, instead of a bulldog, I’m getting a big cut of 500 Billion Dollars, just as soon as I wire my contact some money so they can smuggle the money into my bank account….

    I agree with the 419eater web site. There was one case where the 419-baiters got a couple of Nigerians to video themselves acting out the entire Monty Python “Parrot Sketch”. It was hilarious!

  34. Trai_Dep says:

    Did anyone consider whether it’s the puppy that’s the mastermind behind this nafarious scheme? He DOES have an awfully bright twinkle in his eye…

  35. eblack says:

    Really now, I think we’ve established that if you’re sending money by Western Union to ANYWHERE you’re never going to see it again. And if you fall for a scam that involves sending money to Africa for any reason I have no sympanthy at all.

  36. Anonymous says:

    @eblack: agreed.

  37. says:

    This is actually a two or three year old “development” :P The big “new” thing is job scams and immigration fees targetted at third-world residents and even that is a good year old.