Jacquelyn Lynn - Online Consumer Advice and Commentary

Jacquelyn Lynn is a business writer whose dynamic books and insightful articles have been helping business owners and managers work smarter and more profitably for more than two decades. She is the author of Entrepreneur’s Almanac, Online Shopper’s Survival Guide and co-author of Make Big Profits on eBay, as well as a regular contributor to Entrepreneur magazine. For more information and for the link to her business blog, visit www.jacquelynlynn.com.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

New Scam Involving Exotic Birds - USDA Alert

Here is a new scam alert from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Inspector General – Investigations:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Atlanta provided the following information to the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding a scam in which the U.S. Department of Agriculture's “USDA” name and “USDA” correspondence are being used in a scam to obtain money from people who think they are adopting exotic birds. It is similar to the Nigerian letter scams [also known as Advance Fee Fraud or Nigerian 419 schemes. Go to http://www.state.gov/www/regions/africa/naffpub.pdf for more information], except the country Cameroon is being referenced in this case.

The scam basically works this way: Ads are placed over Internet sites such as MecuryNews.com that 3 Macaws or other exotic birds are up for adoption. Individuals in the U.S. see the ad and contact the person placing the birds for adoption by e-mail. The party contacted by e-mail introduces themselves as being from Cameroon. The money trail can start from this point as the party in Cameroon "arranges" to have the birds shipped from Douala, Cameroon to Hartsfield Airport-Atlanta by "Global Pet Express" and of course money is needed for paperwork, etc. for the transfer of the birds. An official itinerary is provided and payment is sympathetically requested.

The party in the U.S. adopting the birds next receives a fax/e-mail from the "U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Pets Transportation and Wild Life Animals" stating that the birds are being held at Hartsfield Airport pending USDA regulations requiring further paperwork from the Ministry of Livestock and Animal Industry in Cameroon and references contacting the person who the birds were adopted from to get the paperwork in Cameroon to forward. The party "who the birds were adopted from" is contacted and of course more money, $662 or similar amount, is needed to obtain the necessary permits from the Cameroon government ministry involved. The money pit can continue or stop at this point, depending whether the adopting party in the U.S. contacts the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and finds that no birds are being held by USDA regulators at Hartsfield. They will also find that there is not a "Department of Pets Transportation and Wild Life Animals" under the U.S. Department of Agriculture and there were never birds sent.

USDA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are working together on this and hope to publish a nationwide alert.

Jacquelyn Lynn


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