When Prajay Inarman set out to buy his daughter a pup as a surprise birthday gift, little did he know he would become the victim of a pet scam.
Like any busy father would do, he searched online for pups and soon fell in love with a Yorkshire pup named Lindi.
“The puppy was cute and without wasting any time I contacted the guy who calls himself Ray and he said I should pay 50 percent of the sale price which was R1800. He gave me his banking details to deposit the money and said I should pay the remaining amount once I receive my puppy within three days,” said Inarman.
Inarman said everything seemed fine as he had Ray’s cellphone number and his email address and communication between them was good.
Emails were sent back and forth between Inarman and Ray and not once did Ray give Inarman a reason not to trust him. He even sent Inarman pictures of the pups he had but Inarman had his eyes set on Lindi.
It wasn’t until Inarman deposited the money into Ray’s account on August 9 that things started going wrong.
“I deposited money into his account and I sent him confirmation of the transaction. He said that he did not receive the message, so I sent him another message”, Inarman said.
When Ray didn’t respond to the second message, Inarman contacted him the following day to find out when he would receive the pup. According to Inarman, Ray stalled, saying he was busy, but he would get back to him.
As Inarman waited patiently to hear from Ray, another man called him and asked him if he received an email from Safe Handle and Delivery Company. Inarman said he didn’t. The caller went silent on him and ended the call.
When Inarman enquired further, Ray said there was a problem with the delivery company and that he had to pay another fee as required by www.safehandleanddelivery.com – a website which doesn’t exist.
Inarman said he started to feel that something was not right and he went online to search for the delivery company and to his shock the company did not exist. “I had an ‘aha’ moment and immediately realised I had been scammed,” he said.
When confronted, Ray denied it was a scam and asked Inarman to deposit the remaining amount so he can deliver the pup himself. This time Inarman refused to give him more money. Suddenly pieces of the puzzle came together and immediately Inarman called the bank to report the matter. The bank said it would freeze the account until investigations into the account are concluded.
Another animal lover, who refused to be named, also fell for the alleged pet scam. While browsing the internet she came across three beautiful Dalmations. She immediately phoned the number. A woman, who called herself Michelle, told her to deposit the money into a bank account provided and she would receive her pups within two days. “I thought that the price was generous, I mean what is R2 500 for three puppies, and especially since she told me she was too ill to look after them. I immediately deposited the money and notified Michelle that I had paid,” she said.
Two days passed and when the woman tried to contact Michelle what she heard on the other end of the line was “the number you have dialled does not exist”. Shocked, Jacobs kept calling but she received the same answer.
“I was so angry that a person could do that and get away with it but eventually realised that I had been pet scammed and there was no way I could get my money back,” she said.
The pet scam advert was published on www.olx.co.za, a global classifieds website, where the fraudster posts photos of pups and other animals for potential buyers using different email accounts and different cellphone numbers. The sellers promise that their pups are in good health, de-wormed and they are in possession of vet certificates.
IOL investigations revealed that while the fraudsters use different email accounts they use the same phone numbers consistently. They claim to sell anything from pups, goats, cows and horses to snakes, but nothing materialises after payment has been made.
Inarman has since opened a fraud case with the Edenvale police. The investigating officer, Sergeant Willie Maila confirmed that a case of fraud was opened.
“We applied for a 205 document from the public prosecutor that allows us to obtain information from the bank and the service provider. Until we receive that document, we are unable to move forward with the investigation for now,” Maila said.
This pet scam is one of many in recent years. In 2008 The Star published a story about a group of hawkers on William Nicol Drive, north of Johannesburg, who threatened to kill pups if motorists refused to buy them, forcing one motorist to buy an unwanted pup because he took pity on it.
OLX customer care manager, Santiago Santini said that while they do everything in their power to prevent fraudulent adverts, sometimes they find their way onto the website.
Santini said: “It is our policy to combat the publication of illegal ads. We employ a system of filtration that detects words that signal the publication of an illegal ad, for example “cocaine”, “drug trafficking”, “prostitute”, among thousands of other similar words. The system then prevents the ads containing these words from being published”.
“Additionally, OLX employs a team of people that operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, whose function it is to manually review each of the millions of ads published on OLX. Despite our efforts and our tools, ads will occasionally penetrate these defences and remain active on the site for a certain period until they are detected and reported by our community,” he added.
Some of the email addresses and cell phone numbers used to scam potential pet buyers are:
079 7764 888
082 7212 630
072 2369 122
078 2798 177
078 628 4004 - IOL