NMU student Anton Pospichal and his wife were interested in getting a small dog to have around the house, since they don’t have kids. Reading the March 12 issue of The North Wind, Pospichal saw a classified ad that offered two free terrier puppies.
Pospichal, a freshman computer information systems major, sent an e-mail to the address supplied by a man claiming to be the Rev. Tony Brown. Brown responded and explained that he was a missionary in Nigeria and could not take good enough care of the puppies. He claimed that he wanted to give them to a good home.
Pospichal was caught off guard when Brown said it would cost $500 to ship the puppies. Brown offered to pay $400 and said that Pospichal should cover the difference.
Pospichal went back and forth, sending 10 e-mails in a week, and at one point even decided that he was not going to take the puppies. After more deliberation, though, he and his wife decided to make the transaction. Pospichal sent $100 to Brown via Western Union. As it turns out, the man claiming to be the Rev. Tony Brown was scamming Pospichal.
“I’m not a real trusting person,” said Pospichal. “And how I fell into this is beyond me. I still can’t figure it out.”
Pospichal became concerned when the shipping manager at the Diplomatic Courier Service Company, the company that was supposedly handling the shipping, contacted Pospichal and said that the dogs needed insurance which would cost $250 per dog-a total of $500.
Upon looking up information on what it takes to ship animals from another country, Pospichal found a number of links that talked about dog scams from Africa where people from another country falsely claim they are selling dogs to make money.
Pospichal then demanded proof that the dogs existed. Brown sent him pictures of the dogs, which Pospichal insists could have been taken from any Web site. Brown then said that Virgin Airlines was shipping the dogs.
“I really know you are trying to be careful, but I am a man of God and I can never scam you with god name so I want you to be rest assured that it is 100 percent legitimate,” Brown said in an e-mail to Pospichal.
Pospichal contacted Virgin Airlines and asked about the policies for shipping animals. The airline contacted him and informed him that they do not offer shipping services for pets to and from Nigeria.
Also, Brown provided Pospichal with a Nigerian customs phone number if he had more information.
“I called this number and the person on the other line answered ‘Hello, Hello? Who is this?'” Pospichal hung up. He said that no matter what country it was, no customs office would answer their phone that way. The person at the number called Pospichal back and asked what he needed.
“I was calling about information on insurance and international shipping, and he automatically spits out ‘puppies’. I didn’t mention puppies,” Pospichal said. “That was when it really started hitting home.”
Pospichal e-mailed the Michgan State Police and Nigerian customs, and wrote a letter to The North Wind.
“There isn’t a whole lot I can do. The state police don’t contact me. Obviously they don’t think it’s important enough to even respond and say ‘Sorry about your loss,'” Pospichal said.
Sgt. Don Belanger of the Michigan State Police said that he was unaware of this problem, but that scams are constantly being reported.
“You’ve always got to be wary about possible scams from a different country because there’s no way to see if it’s a legitimate representation or not,” Belanger said. “Of course being overseas or from another state makes it harder for prosecution.”