I saw an ad on Junk Mail for a rare type of rabbit. I contacted the seller, Stephen Alan. I agreed to place a deposit on the bunnies with the balance upon delivery. The seller agreed to ship the bunnies at his expense.
However, less than an hour before the bunnies were to be put on the plane, I was contacted by the transport company. They demanded that I pay R1500 deposit on a specialized crate that was climate controlled, otherwise the airport officials would not allow the animals on board for health issues that could occur in flight because the rabbits were less than 6 months old.
They stated that they would not hold the animals for more than 24 hours, which meant that I had to pay for the crate. With such little time and so much pressure, I should have known that there was something terribly wrong. I had no time to research any of what I was being told, so I paid the deposit. My fear of what would happen to the animals played perfectly into scam.
However, shortly afterwards, I became very suspicious and called the transport company, they hung up on me. Of course, the animals never showed up and neither the seller nor the transport company will respond to my calls or email. I did contact my bank, which tried to reverse the eWallet transactions; however, the money had already been withdrawn.
After doing more research, I have found this same scam, by the same people, committed all across South Africa. It has been reported on this website as well as others. This fraud is occurring in every South African province and in every major city. The number of classified ads that these guys are creating is unbelievable. At least two, if not many more people are involved.
They claim to be selling everything from ostrich chicks to dogs, cats, birds, and rabbits.
The key signs to look for are:
1. The seller uses delivery instead of pickup.
2. The seller is in a rush to deliver the animals the next day.
3. The seller offers expensive, rare, and/or desired animals that are hard to get or are very popular.
4. The seller wants the payment made by eWallet. EFT is better as you have more time to report the crime to your bank and potentially get the payment reversed. However, the safest method is to see the animals in person.
I am usually a very smart consumer, but this time I failed miserably. There were additional warning signs, all of which I should have paid more attention to:
1. The story the seller told about the animals was not completely plausible; however, I was so excited to finally find such a rare breed of animal that my heart took over my brain (a fraudster's dream victim).
2. The location of the add in the advertisement (Durban), was not the location of the person who responded to me (Bloemfontein). This was a clear sign that the person posting and responding is not the same person.
3. There was no direct pressure to do delivery, but given the distance, the delivery option was made very desirable. It is clear that these guys have learned form past mistakes - as described in other reports on this site. http://www.reportacrime.co.za/CrimeReport.aspx?ID=2449
However, the seller did seem to be in a great hurry to ship immediately. I assumed that this was because he needed to find a home quickly for the animals. I should have known better. I should have recognized that something was wrong and that this was indeed a form of pressure, it was not direct, but rather subtle.
4. I was not given the name, contact info, and web address of the transport company. However, they did email me and call me. From this respect they seemed like a real company. However, when I checked the website, it was down. There was no record of this business but it was very similar to a real business (also in the shipping industry). The emails that were sent to me were not typical type spam/fraud emails that are so often filled with spelling and grammer mistakes. These emails were well written. Someone with at least a few brain cells is behind this scam.
Here is a list of known entities in the scam:
Milner Packer Akam
Tell: 01245875112 / 0603400806
Web Side: southline-logistics.com
The entire scam happened in less than 24 hours, which was another warning sign I should have noticed.
Given the scope of this scam, it would be worthwhile for those of us involved to pool our info and file a police report.
|Crime Date/Time:||13 Mar 2013, 00:03 AM|
|Reported Date:||13 Mar 2013, 16:03 PM|