Dog lovers are reporting a new scam cropping up on the Internet the puppy scam. Classified ads in newspapers and online promise a free puppy, as long as the victim agrees to pay for shipping.

Actually, like most scams, the puppy scam has been around awhile. In fact, Canadas Phonebusters warned about the puppy scam several months ago.

Much like other advance fee scams this involves the promise of a puppy when all the necessary fees are paid, the anti-fraud site warns. Ads are placed in newspapers and the Internet and usually involve someone that has moved or is moving or resides in another country.

In this latest incarnation of the scam, the dog owner is said to reside in Africa. In some cases he says he is an American, serving in the Peace Corps. He promises to send the dog once the victim sends $200 to pay for shipping.

Usually there is another request for more money, explaining there were some complications clearing customs. If the victim pays the second fee, the scammer usually disappears.

In order to avoid these types of scams, Phonebusters offers this advice:

• Know whom you are dealing with - independently confirm your seller's name, street, address, and telephone number.

• Resist pressure to act now. If an offer sounds to good to be true it usually is.

• If the buyer wants to use a service you have not heard of, be sure to check it out to be sure it is reliable - check its Web site, call its customer service hotline, and read its terms of agreement and privacy policy. If you do not feel comfortable with the service, do not use it.

Even better advice, say animal protection organizations, is to never buy a puppy from anyone other than a local breeder. Shipping a puppy is cruel and inhumane in itself. Buying an animal via the Internet virtually ensures that you are supporting puppy mills.

The best place to get a pet is the local pound.

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