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Got Pets? Scamming in Cameroon

posted Jan 31, 2010, 8:52 AM by Reinoud Vaandrager
Cameroon is on the blacklist of many credit card companies and money transfer companies such as Western Union because of the amount of scams and fraud originating from this country (sharing the top spot of most scammy countries together with other illustrious members such as Nigeria and Romania). As a result taking out money with a visa card from an ATM does not work unless you have first contacted your bank to enabled it.

I experienced this first hand when I tried to send some money from Europe to Cameroon using Western Union. Before the tranfer could be made I had to call a WU representative to let them know it was really really me and I really really wanted to transfer money. The WU representative told me there that cameroon is famous for their pet scams, and that many people fall victim to this scam in Europe and the US.

The pet scam works like this: The Cameroonian scammer sends out an email claiming to be a US or EU couple that moved to Cameroon for research or other reputable work. They brought their adorable pet over (usually a rare and expensive breed of dog or cat) but their pat is not taking well to the warm climate. Rather then let the animal suffer they have put it up for adoption, and because the animal is so dear to them they are offering to ship it for free. Of course they attach some random image of an uber-cute animal.

While updating my blog in an internet cafe, I see plenty of dubious characters around writing these scammy emails. A small peek at the drive of a random computer provides a wealth of puppy and kitten pics:

Some cute puppies & kitten pics I found on the drive of the internet cafe PC

The victim, that after looking at the cute picture loses all capability of sane and rational thought will transfer some money to the 'couple' in Cameroon to adopt the pet. Of course there is no pet and the victim loses their money. However this is where the fun starts. Pretty soon the victim receives an email that the animal is at the airport but is being quarantined until it has received one or more (very expensive) vaccinations. If the adopting victim would please like to pay as soon as possible because the animal is in a lot of stress. Usually the scammer is able to drag it out for quite some time until the victim realizes there is no pet and there never will be. Here is an example text I found lying around on the drive of a computer in the internet cafe:

In some cases the victims get upset and start sending angry emails to the scammer. The scammer then can take on another role and send email from a different email account claiming to be the Cameroonian FBI and that they want to bring the criminals to justice. Of course they need a small fee to get the investigation started ;)