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Nigerian con artists luring victims with puppies

Lawton_Con artists are using adorable puppies and newspapers across the country to lure in their victims in a new twist on an old scam.  A 7News viewer spotted an ad in the Lawton Constitution advertising two yorkies were up for adoption - free to a good home.  However, when our viewer contacted the email address listed in the ad, he discovered the dogs weren't in Oklahoma, Texas, or even the United States - they were in Nigeria.  A red flag went up for yorkie owner Mike Weddington.

Many of us have received the emails from the so-called wealthy foreigners in Nigeria who want to give folks their money.  While this con job still wants to empty your wallet, it also tugs at the heart strings - especially around the holidays.  Weddington says that finding a playmate for his dog Ali wasn't all his idea.  "My wife, you know, she'd been wanting another dog and I'm like, ‘I don't want no more dogs,'" he said.

But, Weddington thought he couldn't pass up an opportunity for two free AKC Registered yorkies, and once he told his wife, she jumped on the opportunity.  She emailed the address in the ad immediately.  The next day, they got a reply with attached pictures of Simy and Tiny.  "It looked absolutely legitimate, and they were the cutest dogs," he said.

The author of the email said that he and his wife were on a Christian mission trip in Africa, and needed to find the dogs a good home.  Then came another email with shipping information.  The supposed dog owner asked Weddington to pay half of the $850 shipping costs, and even sent a shipping label.  "So that's $425 for our part," said Weddington.  "I said, ‘Okay I don't have a problem with that, but I'm not going to just send you the money.'"

After investigating the shipping company on the internet, Weddington's wife discovered that it doesn't even exist.  "It just didn't start adding up," he said.  Included in the email was strange grammar and broken sentences.  "They kept calling them their babies - ‘The babies are yours, I'm just so happy.'"

Soon, the Weddingtons got a call from Nigeria.  While it was supposed to be the dog's owner, he had an African accent.  "He started talking over me - started getting rude - and I'm like, ‘You're just going to have to find somebody else,'" said Weddington.  He says it was a deal too good to be true, and while he didn't lose any money, he fears that others who see ads like these may.  "If they're selling these same dogs ten times a day, they're probably making a good $4,000, $4,500 a day."

Management at the Lawton Constitution say that they began seeing ads like these a few months ago, and they're placed and paid for over the internet.  Classified ad workers have tried to remove the phony ads, but some still get through.  Consumers follow the Weddingtons' example and always investigate classified ads.  The Constitution says it now will require a phone number to appear in its classified ads.

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