Fraudulent Web sites, MySpace postings and print ads are asking people to help save puppies in desperate straits by sending money overseas, The Los Angeles Times reports.
"It's like the Nigerian advance-fee scams we've been seeing for years, except with the face of a puppy," Steve Cox, a council vice president, told the newspaper.
The sites and ads usually show bulldog puppies that are said to have become stuck in Nigeria, Cameroon or other countries and are offered free to new owners. A variation offers the expensive purebred English bulldogs at vastly discounted prices, the Times reports.
Victims eventually were asked to send hundreds of dollars to cover expenses such as shipping, customs, taxes and inoculations.
Some reported paying more than $1,500. But no matter how much was paid, no puppies arrived, the Times reports. And even the pictures of the pooches likely are fraudulent. In the last couple of months, local business bureaus across the country increasingly have been getting complaints, Cox said.
In Ohio, Kim McDonald and her son chose an English bulldog online, sent e-mails inquiring about the pooch, and received messages that the dogs were in Nigeria, the Times reported. They chose a puppy named Emma that was being offered for free. McDonald sent $350 to cover all costs, including shipping. She later received an e-mail asking for $200 more for customs fees to clear the puppy through London.
She called the breeder, who told her that operation didn't handle English bulldogs at all. McDonald then e-mailed the "agent" in Nigeria asking for her money back. But there was no reply.
"We had gotten so excited about this little puppy that was coming," she told the Times. "We were so sad."