In times of economic stress, we always see an increase in scams. Sadly, scammers are most likely to target financially vulnerable people.
There are the loan scams, where the scammers promise loans to blacklisted consumers at low interest rates.
There are those cryptocurrency scams promising untold wealth, which play on our financial desperation or greed.
And then there are the love scams. These scams play on our heart strings, and the scam can involve anything from falling in love with a person to falling in love with a puppy.
The Netflix documentary The Tinder Swindler highlighted relationship scams. These can be online relationships or even in person.
The scammer portrays themselves as the perfect partner, often pretending to be wealthy, and the victim believes they have met their fairytale love.
Once they believe they have the victim hook, line and sinker, there is invariably a major drama that befalls the love interest. They suddenly now need money for an operation or because they have been unjustly arrested or kidnapped. This, of course, is all part of the con.
Scammers target pet-buyers
There is also the online pet scam, where victims fall in love with a cute puppy or kitten for sale ‒ except that the pet does not actually exist.
Say you’re looking for a puppy for your child’s birthday and type into Google the breed you’re looking for. Scam websites will appear in the search results as the scammers have paid for Google Ads.
The scam website usually has a list of different breeds of puppies that the seller has available. The scammer will then send photos and/or videos of the puppy via WhatsApp.
The scammer will ask where the buyer is located and then ensure that their kennels are in a different part of the country, which means the buyer cannot view the puppy and will need a courier to transport the pet.
The scammer assures the buyer that once payment is received, the adorable puppy will arrive, just in time for the child’s birthday. But the scam has only just started.
As soon as the buyer makes a payment to the scammer, the “courier company” then needs an additional payment for a special crate, or additional amounts may be needed for vaccinations. As the costs add up, the buyer tries to exit the agreement to get their money back. The scammer then disappears by blocking the buyer on WhatsApp.
If you are in the market for a puppy, be aware of websites that list many different dog breeds, all of which have, surprisingly, puppies available at the same time. Reputable dog breeders do not market their puppies online and will only showcase their own breed.
Another warning sign is if the breeder will only send you pictures and videos of “your” puppy, but they refuse to video call with you, claiming they have very little data or bad signal.
If you are not sure of the legitimacy of the breeder, contact Kennel Union of Southern Africa (KUSA).
In all off these scams there is one common element: our emotions. If you are feeling emotional, it’s time to check in with yourself, take a deep breath and maybe ask someone knowledgeable for their opinion before you commit.