Nigerian Puppy Scams Still Going Strong

Jan over at Poodle and Dog blog recently engaged in a round of emails with a Nigerian scammer who was attempting to sell her a Bulldog/Yorkie/Who the Hell Knows puppy. Thankfully, Jan was smart enough to know he was a scammer, but apparently some people haven’t gotten the memo yet, because victims are still falling for it.

From the Bismarck Tribune:

Toni Miller, 23, now is out about $850 after trying to get two Yorkshire terrier puppies shipped to her from someone posing as a missionary in Nigeria.

Miller saw an ad in the Bismarck Tribune classifieds last week for a $550 Yorkshire terrier puppy. No one answered the phone number listed, so Miller used the e-mail address listed, jacj@;, to get more information.

The phone number in the advertisement actually is a local church’s fax number.

Well, that part is a new twist – apparently the scammers have gotten wise enough and well organized enough to start running local phone numbers in their ad. And a church number? That’s a neat way for them to add an extra layer of respectability onto their advertisement.

The “seller” e-mailed Miller back, saying the dog was no longer available, but a previous buyer may have some puppies available, as the man was a missionary who had been transferred to Nigeria suddenly and was worried about the dogs.

Miller e-mailed that person, supposedly named Jack Frazier Sneed, at He told her, via e-mail, it would cost $500 to ship his two Yorkshire puppies to her in Bismarck. Miller wired the money to a shipping agent named “Roy Wallace.”

The puppies were supposed to arrive Tuesday around noon. But “Jack Frazier Sneed” e-mailed Miller to say there were problems in transit, the puppies were stuck at a London airport and she needed to wire $350 more. Miller wired that money, too.

I also see that they’re still running on the theory that if suckers will pay a little, they’ll also be willing to pay a lot – especially if you hit them with sad stories of the puppies being stranded at airports. At least in this case they didn’t resort to threats – in some scams, they’ve actually contacted ‘buyers’ and threatened them that if they didn’t pay more money to get the puppy released from the airport, they could face charges of animal abandonment. Ballsy, huh?

I am willing to bet that most people reading this already know all about the Nigerian puppy scams (which I’ve also called ‘phantom’ puppy scams), but here’s a re cap:

– The scammer offers purebred puppies, usually at ridiculously low prices. That should be your first clue – no one, and I mean no one, is selling a pure bred Bulldog puppy for under $1500 dollars (and cheap at that price). Ditto Yorkshire Terriers, French Bulldogs, or any other pricey purebred puppy. Here’s how to check – google your breed of choice, and see what the average selling prices are. If you find one for sale that’s less than 50% of that price (or even less), trust me – it’s a scam. The scammers prey on your initial greed – a puppy for almost nothing! Once they have you, they’ll take advantage of your gullibility, and you’ll be out hundreds – and sometimes even thousands – with still no puppy.

– The scammer will claim to be over seas (usually in Cameroon, Nigeria, Cote D’azure, or another African nation). If they themselves aren’t overseas, then either they have a ‘friend’ there who is sadly forced to sell off their puppies, or a relative there who has died and their family are selling their puppies to “good Christian homes”.

– Whoever has the puppies will almost always claim to be a Missionary. This ploy works on two levels – it is designed to make Christians more trusting (“Hey, I’m a Christian, and the person selling the puppy is a Christian, and one Christian would never scam another, right?”), and it’s also designed to make you feel sympathetic to the plight of a hardworking missionary, doing God’s work in a foreign country and now forced to give up their beloved pet. How could you not support them?

Since the seller was describing himself as a Christian missionary, Miller felt it was her duty to help him care for the puppies.

“I’m a Christian, too, so I just thought it would be helping out a fellow Christian,” she said.

– The scammer usually tells you that you can have the puppy for ‘free’, but you have to pay the shipping fee. The shipping fee is generally low – under $500. This low price is a dead give away – it can cost close to this amount to ship a dog across North America, let alone to get it from Africa to the US. The scammers, however, keep the price low to lull the victims into a sense of security. After all, it sure doesn’t sound like much money to spend to get such an expensive dog.

– If you’re foolish enough to send the scammers the initial fee, they won’t stop there – they’ll ask you for more money, saying that the dog is stuck in customs, or is sick and needs medicine. In many cases, the scammers have made second, third or even fourth requests, finally resorting (as I mentioned above) to sending threatening emails warning of FBI charges and of ASPCA involvement. They won’t stop until they’re certain they’ve gotten every penny possible out of you. In the worst cases, they mange to convince buyers to send them bank account information, which can lead to account fraud and even identity theft.

Be smart. Remember the golden rules – dogs don’t come free, missionaries don’t take puppies to Africa, and NEVER use Western Union to pay for a puppy.