When Julien Armstrong-Kelly was conned out of more than R5‚000 after she tried to buy a puppy online‚ the KwaZulu-Natal resident was horrified.
The Richards Bay resident has now become a victim of identity theft.
Armstrong-Kelly became a victim of that double whammy earlier this month after her internet search for a pug puppy led her to “Chantel”‚ who said she had “stunning” eight-week old pug puppies available for R2‚500‚ including Kennel Union of SA (KUSA) registration papers‚ microchip‚ leash‚ “complete medical records”‚ “pedigree” and toys — plus a flight to Durban.
She paid and sent Chantel a copy of her ID as well as that of her father‚ George Wallace‚ for whom she was buying the pup‚ as requested.
Then came an email‚ purportedly from a courier company‚ saying that the airline was insisting on a “temperature regulator crate” at an extra cost of R3‚000‚ all but R50 of which would be refunded on return of the crate.
Not wanting to leave the fictitious little puppy stranded at an airport‚ Armstrong-Kelly paid that amount as well‚ via money transfer at a Pep store‚ as instructed.
When she heard no more from Chantel about the flight or the puppy‚ she realised she’d been scammed.
But for Armstrong-Kelly‚ the anguish didn’t end there. Strangers began leaving messages on her Facebook page.
“Are you the lady who has scammed me out of R2‚500?” asked Siân. “I have a copy of your ID and I will go to the police if you do not transfer the money back to me.”
Whether they were looking for “ragdoll kittens”‚ French bulldogs‚ Bengal kittens or Rhodesian ridgebacks‚ “Julien Armstrong-Kelly” claimed to be ready and willing to sell them one‚ at a great price. And many of them fell for it.
“I feel so bad that my identity is being used to scam others‚” said the real Armstrong-Kelly this week. “They are even sending them a copy of my ID.”
Manie van Schalkwyk‚ executive director of the SA Fraud Prevention Service‚ urged Armstrong-Kelly to apply for the service’s protective registration‚ meaning her ID will be flagged in order to prevent fraudsters using it to open accounts in her name — something she is now terrified of.
On its website‚ KUSA warns consumers of online puppy sale scams which “have increased dramatically in the recent past”. A too-good-to-be-true price is the first red flag.
“Not even back-yard breeders sell pugs for R2‚500‚” said Maré de Kock‚ a KUSA-registered pug breeder based in Riebeek West.
She sells her puppies for R7‚000‚ dewormed‚ microchipped‚ KUSA-registered and with their first round of inoculations.
By Wendy Knowler
– Wendy Knowler is TimesLIVE’s consumer champion. You can contact her on email: firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter: @wendyknowler