Geneva, 24 August 2007
The CITES Secretariat wishes to draw the attention of wildlife purchasers to Internet scams related, in particular, to birds.
The Secretariat sees on a regular basis false documents that purport to be CITES export permits or re-export certificates. They are often accompanied by other counterfeit, forged or falsified documents, such as veterinary health certificates, breeder or exporter licences and animal health inspector qualification certificates. Documents like these are attached to messages encouraging recipients to purchase wildlife.
It seems highly likely that none of the authors of these messages has any access to wildlife or, indeed, any intention to supply wildlife. Instead, their intention is to persuade potential customers to pay for specimens in advance but without sending them anything in return.
Some of the false documents appear simply to have been invented by the perpetrators of these frauds and bear no resemblance to genuine documents. They usually, however, do have the appearance of being official documents, such as might be issued by a government department. They commonly incorporate the logo or emblem of a ministry or department, the flag of the country where they were allegedly issued, and counterfeit signatures and seals of authorizing officers. The documents are usually in English but some are in French or are bilingual (English and French). However, it is becoming increasingly common for false documents to be based upon genuine CITES permits.
Fraudulent documents have been supplied to potential purchasers of wildlife as ‘proof’ of the seller’s capacity to engage in trade. Although different species are offered, the majority of cases appear to involve birds.
In the past, it appears that potential customers in Europe and North America have been the primary targets of such offers for sale. However, this practice seems to be spreading and persons in central Asia and Australia are now also being approached.
The CITES Secretariat recommends to anyone who receives unrequested offers over the Internet that they contact their national CITES Management Authority to check the authenticity and validity of any accompanying documents. Contact details for these authorities are available on the National contacts and information page.
The Secretariat discourages customers who wish to purchase wildlife from sending any money in advance, unless they are completely satisfied that the seller is a genuine trader. Persons who have been the victims of such a fraud should contact their local police.