Traverse City Woman Falls Victim to Hairless Cat Scam

Woman was hoping to purchase a Sphynx cat from an online seller

A Traverse City woman is out more than $20 thousand after falling victim to a scam. The woman was trying to buy a Sphynx, also known as a hairless cat.

Hairless Cat Seregraff Cbs

Stock photo courtesy SEREGRAFF/CBS News

Sheriff’s Office investigators say she ended up buying multiple gift cards and transferring them to the scammer, to the tune of $24,000.

Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Randy Fewless says, “This cat was an expensive cat so there was originally a lot of money passed over to the scammer.” Capt. Fewless adds, “The scammer kept re-contacting the victim, advising them there were more costs. Shipping, quarantine, you name it. There was always another reason that there was more money that was going to be asked for this transaction.”

While hairlessness in cats is a naturally occurring genetic mutation, the hypoallergenic cats are somewhat rare. Experts say a Sphynx cat could sell for between $2,500 and $5,000.

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Stock photo courtesy istockphoto/CBS News

Capt. Fewless says never use gift cards to pay for an online purchase. That’s been a primary way that scammers are doing business these days.” He adds, “Anytime anyone is ever asking for you to purchase gift cards for a particular transaction – to NOT do that. That’s no reputable way that somebody would be asking for that.”

It’s unlikely the victim will be able to recover their money. “These are voluntary withdrawals of money. The voluntary aspect of giving the money to the scammer is the problem. A bank is not going to replenish your money when you voluntarily subjected yourself to a fraud.” Capt. Fewless says it’s a good idea to check with a friend or loved one if anything seems suspicious. “It’s very important if you are going to make some type of transaction online or some means other than an obvious reputable one, maybe ask a family member. Get some type of second opinion from somebody about whether this looks on the up-and-up.”

Capt. Fewless also says there is a federal database where victims can file a complaint and enter the information about what happened. If there are enough of the same types of complaints, “sometimes that will prompt a federal investigation to occur, which can be helpful as well.”