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Doggie Deception: Thieves Target Dog Lovers

PHOTO GALLERY

AURORA, Colo (CBS4) Coloradans love their pets. Now thieves are using adorable pictures of puppies to steal money. Now an Aurora woman says she got drawn into this twist on the classic Nigerian scam.

Kellie Bohrer was looking for a puppy for her brother. She found an advertisement on dog.oodle.com for a cute Siberian husky. The puppy was described as a purebred and listed for $320 dollars. A good deal considering that purebred huskies can run $1,000. Kellie contacted the sellers and got more cute pictures and a registration certificate.

“The agency called and said that we needed to give them $1,600,” Bohrer explained.

The money was for insurance to ship the puppy from Washington state to Kellie’s home. Kellie got a form that assured her that all that money would be returned upon delivery.

“We waited for the puppy. We didn’t get anything,” Bohrer said.

What Kellie got was another e-mail asking for more money. This time the puppy was in Idaho and needed vaccinations and a new carrier.

“That was another thousand dollars out of our pocket,” Bohrer said.

Still, she got no puppy, but she did get another e-mail saying the husky was in Las Vegas in “puppy quarantine”. They wanted another $4,500.

“We’re like this isn’t right,” Bohrer said.

That’s when Kellie started asking questions. She found that the registration certificate was a fake version of a certificate issued by a real company. American Pet Registry is based out Arkansas and says that it’s gotten about 10 complaints about this scam from people all over the U.S. The certificate used in the scam is similar to ones issued by American Pet Registry, but contains mistakes like registration numbers that are not associated with the Registry.

“The first rule of thumb is if something appears to be too good to be true, it mostly likely is,” said Dave Joly, a spokesperson for the Federal Bureau of Investigations office in Denver.

Joly says his investigators see this scam over and over again. The twist in this one is that the thieves are drawing people in with cute puppy pictures. CBS4 did a reverse search on the pictures, and found these same puppies for sale in Texas, Virginia, North Carolina and they’re even featured on what looks like a puppy sale site in a foreign county.

“Treat this as a business transaction. Don’t have an emotional attachment to anything that you’re purchasing,” Joly advised.

CBS4 tried to track down the seller listed on the insurance form, Aundria Darby of Hoquiam Washington. The address is a rural cross roads. And there are two Aundria Darby’s – one in Texas and one in California – neither of which are selling husky puppies.

“Being 19, I really didn’t understand what was happening,” Bohrer said.

Kellie is out about $3,000 and now she wants to warn other people about this scam.

“I don’t want other people to suffer.”

If you run into this kind of doggie deception, Joly says that the best thing you can do is report it. The FBI is the agency that would investigate this kind of internet fraud. They have a website, ic3.gov, for online complaints. It stands for Internet Crime Complaint Center. Investigators say that when you fill out the complaint form include as many details as you can.

–Written for cbsdenver.com by Special Projects Producer Libby Smith