To make a long story and out of order with my blog, I relate the following saga. Here’s the picture sent to me by email for potential adopted Cavalier King Charles spaniel puppies – Billie and Lillie. Cute! And generally worth thousands of dollars, the owner is listed in New Zealand and is giving them up for adoption because her mom just died and she doesn’t want to care for them. So for the price of shipment, she will send them to me – from Doha, Qatar to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia all for the paltry price of $420. This includes travel crate, shots, documents, papers, microchip and more than you want to know. After a few emails back and forth. She agreed to send both dogs and would make arrangements with a pet courier who would deliver the dogs to my doorstep.
No muss no fuss. Here’s the problem. I found the ad for puppy adoption on a website for expats advertising free dogs. In fact English bulldogs were first on the list. No dice – they weigh in at 50 pounds – too much for me. But seeing several ads, I responded and waited.
Here’s where it got dicey. The responses to the three ads that I received all sounded vaguely similar, as though it was the same person who responded to me. The New Zealand response used grammar of the Middle East as opposed to Kiwi. I tried to get some info regarding the background of the owner – no success. She simply said, “Do you want them or not?!” And of course if you know the value of two cute purebred puppies, who’s gonna get picky? I’m close enough to buy a plane ticket and escort the dogs myself – “No.” Mrs Pamela said.
Saying “Mrs Pamela” as she called herself is a Middle East style as I am frequently called Dr Victor. I don’t know why. But they use the title and your first name. It’s just not a Kiwi kind of thing. And then there were grammatical phrases more Middle East then elsewhere. My suspicions mounted, but there was always that ‘free lunch’ that was promised.
Well, after some more back and forth, the only information I had to reveal was name, address, and phone number. No one asked for a social security number or other identification. No background check and no identity theft warning signs. So, I said ok, go ahead, send them.
The response was, “I’ve sent the info to the courier service and they will contact you.” And they did. First by email, but I wasn’t home. So they called my cellphone. And I was told to send $420 from a Western Union place to a post office box address. Since I was at work it was some hours later that I looked at the email. The color title identified the courier company complete with testimonials and confirmed phone number… just no address. So I tried a look up for the phone number. Isn’t the internet great? At least it’s in Doha. But there’s no “Animal Pet Courier Services.” In fact the first three internet search listings are for pet scam notices. It seems that folks send a small amount of money and then get sucked into a spiral of sending more and more money, all the while never receiving a dog. There was a Youtube story of a man who ran a legitimate courier service and the scammers used his logo and website to make a bogus site.
I guess you could call this a close call. But this scam like so many others will work on someone else. The ads are all over the classified ads in the expat websites. There’s no disclaimer and no warning. But even on the internet, you gotta have a traceable address. It’s just that if you have an address, then you can be caught and prosecuted. Anyway, getting a dog into Saudi is a load of paperwork! I’m having enough trouble just getting my kids into the country on a visit. They had to produce a copy of their birth certificate for the Saudi embassy. As for free lunch… it was too good to be true indeed! Oh, and since this is a photoblog, there is no meta data on Billie & Lillie’s picture. So the alleged owner stripped out the info intentionally from a photo copied from somewhere else.
In fact, as I write, they are calling again and again from Doha. But I have caller ID and it seems that they keep using this same unknown, unidentified phone number. Give it up guys…