Tag Archives: the Toronto Star

The Puppy Love Scam

The scam emails offer a Yorkshire Terrier dog for adoption

A few weeks back I wrote about love scams (“You Give Love a Bad Name,” WSJ.com) — how scammers are trawling online dating sites looking for suckers. What interested me about the scam is that in some cases the scammers play a very patient game — luring the mark in over a period of months before any sting is attempted. 

Sophos, the antivirus people, say they have found a new twist on the same scam, where scammers are apparently luring folk by offering a puppy up for adoption:

The emails, which come from a husband and wife who claim to be on a Christian Mission in Africa say that their Yorkshire Terrier dog is not coping well in the hot weather.

Says Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos:

“The criminals are offering the pet puppy in an attempt to gather information from kind-hearted people who jump in to help. If you respond the scammers will try and steal confidential information about you, or sting you for cash. If you fall for a trick like this you’ll be the one ending up in the doghouse.”

Actually this is not quite new and not completely accurate. The LA Times wrote back in May about how the scam works:

People who responded to the ads eventually were asked to send hundreds of dollars to cover expenses such as shipping, customs, taxes and inoculations on an ever-escalating scale.

Some reported paying fees totaling more $1,500.

A piece in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last week said the scam had been going across America for a year and points out that a Google search for “Nigerian Puppy Scam” turns up more than 200,000 “hits.” (I must confess I found only 16,000.) Bulldogs and Yorkshire Terriers are favorites. The paper was apparently alerted to the scam when ads were found to be running in its own paper. A month earlier the Toronto Star reported that a local woman had parted with $500 for a 11-week old terrier, after responding to an ad on a free local classified site and complying with requests for three payments to ship the dog from Nigeria. (A reporter called up the scammer, who uttered the immortal scammer’s words:

“Are you trying to call me a scam? I’m a family man,” he said. “I am a man of God. I am a missionary.”

For more detail on scams and how to spot them, check out this page on the IPATA website.

Dogs work because we love them, and are suckers for the sob story. What’s interesting here — and why these scams are in some ways more dangerous — is that the scam does not play upon people’s greed at all, but instead upon their charity and sense of decency.

Two conclusions from this:

  • These scams are aimed at throwing a wider, and slightly different, net to the old scams. The victims are going to be people who are moral, not greedy.
  • Chances are the scammers are aiming at making less money from these scams, but perhaps make up for it in volume. Perhaps the days are over when scammer aimed to make five-figure sums.

Puppy offered for adoption by Nigerian email scammers

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News: Canadians Get Flirty With SMS

 Canada seems to be getting into SMS/texting, call it what you will. Next week Toronto’s Café Havana will host the country’s first text-messaging party (‘Text And The City’) as part of a (somewhat belated, I can’t help feeling) awakening of the potential for SMS. According to the Toronto Star, SMS volumes still don’t compare to Europe (or Asia, I’m assuming) but they’re picking up.
 
 
If you’re in Toronto, register online at http://www.jambo.ca and pay $8 at the door. Once registered, you’ll be assigned a number that lets people send you an anonymous text message. And since you’ll be anonymous as well, whether you hook up with somebody depends on your skills as a wireless flirter.

Link: Friendster

 
  A new website, Friendster, run by a guy working out of his living room in Silicon Valley is getting plenty of coverage. Friendster works a lot like the dating services I’ve reviewed in the past, although it also talks like a networking service.
 
Tyler Hamilton, writing in The Toronto Star wrote this week, “Jonathan Abrams only opened Friendster.com to the public in March, and in less than four months, the online community claims more than 750,000 members consisting of his friends, their friends and their friends’ friends.”
 
The basic idea, and where it may wind up better off than dating sites, is that people connect through their friends. As someone once said of dating services, they’re obsolete to the user once he or she gets what they came for, namely a soul mate. Friendster goes further than that, in theory, by folding in both friendship and love.
 
Maybe that’s why it’s caught on quickly. An impressive example of word of mouth — even I heard of it, although I have to confess the kind of folk in my particular friendship niche don’t seem to be quite as interested in the things that I am.
 
I also noticed some teething problems, which prevented me from logging in to see how popular I was. Understandable, in a product that’s not yet out of beta. The site is free for now, but will probably charge those who want to contact people they don’t already know.