SAN FRANCISCO
09/16/2011 02:13 pm ET | Updated Nov 16, 2011

SFO Pet Scam: Airport Warns Pet-Lovers Of Email Con Artists

Officials at San Francisco International Airport are warning pet-lovers about scam emails claiming to come from the airport.

The emails, addressed from the airport's "Pet Department" or "Pet Care and Vaccination Department" (neither of which exist), target pet-lovers, advertising rare and exotic pets for sale from overseas.

"From my understanding, the entire production is a scam," said SFO associate deputy airport director of communications and marketing Charles Schuler.

The scam advertises a pet for sale and then sends a bill for the transportation of the animal. Once payment is received for transportation, the scammers demand fees for vaccinations, threatening the health of the animal.

"This is unfortunately a common scam," explained Schuler. "And it seems to have legs." In 2009, Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta was hit with the same problem. "We even received an email from the Center For Disease Control and Prevention thanking us for sending this out to the media," continued Schuler. "They've experienced the same thing."

SFO was alerted of the scam when a customer forwarded a chain of correspondence from san-francisco-intl-airport@live.com -- an email address not affiliated with the airport.

The Huffington Post acquired a copy of the correspondence. While the email is rife with spelling errors and fake logos, the threatening language could certainly alarm any animal-lover, warning "if you do not vaccinate these puppies, you are going to be sued in court by the Ministry of Livestock and Pet Vaccination." The email then demands payment of $410 to cover the cost of vaccination. And, just in case the drama of a lawsuit is not enough, the scammers include a final line in the email: "Remember, if this puppy is not vaccinated, he is going to die."

Though the email is certainly suspicious, airports hit by the scam have heard from many unsuspecting customers. "Unfortunately, we received a few calls per week from honest people who have been scammed by these crooks," said Katena Carvajales, a Harsfield-Jackson Atlanta airport spokeswomen regarding the incident in 2009.

In sum, when in the market for a flesh-and-blood pet, it's best to stick with the local ACC.