New animal scams - How con artists, unscrupulous dealers and bogus testing labs try to hoodwink pet owners: Internet Scambusters #345
With pets in two out of three American households, lucrative animal scams have a huge potential target.
From drugging difficult horses before selling them and dumping unwanted ones on unsuspecting stable owners, to phony DNA tests and bogus certification, there's no end to the tricks.
In our latest foray into the world of animal scams, we uncover five new tricks to be on the lookout for.
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Next, you may want to spend a moment looking at this week's most popular articles from our other sites:
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Now, here we go...
Horses, Dogs, Birds Targeted in 5 New Animal Scams
Because we love them so dearly, pets are a natural target for animal scams. Two thirds of all Americans own a pet -- including 90 million cats and 73 million dogs.
In the past, we have highlighted some of the best known pet scams.
We can tell you that all of them are still active. Every week, we get new reports of old tricks. It seems like our love of these creatures can sometimes make us blind to animal scams.
Unfortunately, that's not the end of the story either. More pet scams are constantly appearing. And to prove it, here are five more such scams we've identified recently:
1. Horse dealer scams
More than four million of us own a horse -- mostly for our own personal riding pleasure rather than for racing or show jumping.
But most of us know little or nothing about them when we buy, which allows unscrupulous dealers to pull a fast one.
The most common animal scam in this category is to pass off a difficult horse as docile by either drugging it or riding it hard for several hours before an inspection. Bad dealers may also falsify records about the animal's age or history.
Try to get someone who does know about horses to help you when buying.
Seek a one-week "test-drive" period so you can thoroughly check the animal before paying.
Get a thorough health check done by a qualified veterinarian.
2. Horse dumping
On the other side of the equine world lurks another nasty animal scam that's become more common with the economic downturn -- horse dumping.
It's a simple trick: An owner can't afford to keep the horse, or maybe just tired of it, and takes it to a livery stable, a local farm or ranch supposedly for an "emergency" overnight stay. A down payment may be made.
After that, the horse owner is never seen again and the stable owner is (excuse the pun) saddled with the cost of feeding and treating, and perhaps eventually disposing of, the animal.
If you look after horses for others (for money or not) check out the credentials -- particularly their phone and other contact details -- of anyone who wants to stable their horse with you.
Consider using a contract that protects your rights if the animal is not collected.
3. Canine DNA testing scams
Got a pooch? Want to know about its ancestry? Or how about learning the makeup of its 57 varieties? Just swab the inside of its mouth and send the specimen off to one of the scores of firms now offering DNA testing to provide the answer.
Then cross your fingers. Because it all seems a bit hit and miss.
In one YouTube video, the owner of an American Kennel Club (AKC) registered Staffordshire Bull Terrier receives a letter from a testing lab saying her dog is mostly Border Collie. Well, it is black and white.
Canine DNA testing is an evolving science and some labs are now achieving a high degree of reliability but others are just out there to take your money, especially if you have a mixed breed animal where their guess is as good as yours.
They may not test the sample at all, or they may use only a limited database of genetic samples against which to try to find a match.
Separating the scammers from the legit labs isn't easy. If a test is important to you, speak to your veterinarian before going ahead.
4. Rare birds going for a song
Trade in many exotic species of animals is strictly controlled, but with some, birds in particular, it's a flourishing legitimate business activity.
Some rare and colorful birds, or their eggs, change hands for many thousands of dollars. But this is generally trade between breed experts.
Less well-informed buyers may be taken in by the rash of ads now appearing in publications and online offering them (especially Australian birds) for just a few hundred dollars.
In truth, the birds don't exist and this animal scam is just a variation of the cash-upfront/money order scam.
Never wire untraceable cash payments to someone you don't know, without first establishing their credentials.
5. Phony certification
Sales of pedigree and thoroughbred animals are underpinned by registration and certification from official bodies like the previously mentioned American Kennel Club, or their equivalent in other countries.
Trouble is that it's very easy to forge certification using a desktop PC and software -- and unscrupulous dealers and breeders are doing just that.
For instance, the Irish Kennel Club recently uncovered a multimillion-Euros scam, involving false registration papers for non-breedable dogs that were being sold as breeders, worth roughly three times more.
Buy your pet only from reputable dealers. Even then, always check the registration with the official body for the species of animal.
We can't leave our roundup of the latest animal scams without "scoring one" for the animals themselves.
During our research for this article, we came across a National Geographic report of a study of Capuchin monkeys who seemed to demonstrate the ability to distract other Capuchins' attention by sounding an alarm cry, then filching their victims' bananas when they ran off.
Animals turned scammers... sneaky!
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!