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10News Uncovers Possible Canine Con

February 12th, 2007, 02:59 PM
An international scam is baiting victims around the world, banking on the vulnerability of animal lovers to turn a profit, according to 10News investigators.

Cute Maltese puppies are popular bundles of joy that come at a high cost.

Maltese breeder Rob Gowing told 10News, “We’re asking $1,000 for the males and $1,500 for the females.”

It is a high price to pay for such a small package.

Because of that, there is no wonder there is high interest in ads that are found in the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper and its accompanying Web site,

Is someone practically giving away pedigreed puppies?

Dianna Randall sells Bichon Frise puppies, another popular breed. She said she answered some online ads on the Union-Tribune’s Web site.

“When I pressed them for a phone number, I got an area code of 234. I looked it up, and it happens to be Nigeria,” said Randall.

Many of the ads feature trendy puppies like Bichons for free just for the cost of shipping.

10News investigators called one of the international numbers listed in an ad and found someone located in Lagos, Nigeria.

10News researcher JW August called several of the puppy sellers.

“I just want to hear the dogs bark, to make sure they are healthy. I will then give you the money for Western Union,” August told a seller.

The sellers ask buyers to wire money in order to ship the dog.

When asked to hear the dog barking, the seller on the phone makes a barking sound.

“Was that a Maltese? Hey, that sounds like you. Was that a dog?” asked August.

10News investigators took the recording of this call to an audio expert.

Voice and audio analyzer Bill Corkery said, “The frequencies are so off that it’s obvious.”

Corkery has been an audio analyst for 30 years. He took audio of a real Maltese to compare to the barking of the dog on the phone.

“In the spectrum analyzer, you could actually see the difference,” said Corkery.

The difference in sound waves etched onto computerized graphs showed how sound waves for the barking dog on the phone actually match the man on the phone.

“It’s a slam dunk that he’s doing it. That is no puppy, not even close,” said Corkery. “Not unless they have different kind of Maltese in Africa.”

10News investigators have learned that the so-called Nigerian scams could be dangerous and take all forms. Those behind the scam are half a world away and seem to be willing to do or say anything to steal.

“I think you can forget about getting your money back,” said private investigator Mark Courtney.

Based in Africa, Courtney said Americans are especially vulnerable because many of them love dogs.

“People have to be prepared. Someone is trying to make money off you. If it’s too good to be true, it’s too good to be true,” said Courtney.

10News investigators contacted the San Diego Union-Tribune and asked if it would be willing to pull these particular ads.

A spokesperson for the Union Tribune said there are no issues or problems with the overwhelming majority of these ads.

But if you find a suspicious ad, report it and the newspaper will remove it immediately.