And now for the latest scam from Nigeria — puppies.

And now for the latest scam from Nigeria — puppies.

The Council of Better Business Bureaus and American Kennel Club today will issue a warning about fraudulent Web sites, MySpace postings and print ads asking people to help save puppies who are in desperate straits.

The sites and ads usually show adorable bulldog puppies that have become stuck somehow in Nigeria or other countries and are offered free to new owners. A variation is to offer the purebred, English bulldogs — a particularly expensive breed — at vastly discounted prices.

People who responded to the ads eventually were asked to send hundreds of dollars to cover expenses such as shipping, customs, taxes and inoculations on an ever escalating scale.

Some reported paying fees totaling more $1,500.

"It's like the Nigerian advance fee scams we've been seeing for years, except with the face of a puppy," said Steve Cox, a council vice president.

No matter how much was paid, no puppies arrived.

Even the pictures — showing sad-eyed puppies with folds of skin so loose it looked as if they were wearing bunched up sweaters — probably were fraudulent, mostly lifted from legitimate sites of unwitting dog owners.

Which leads to the only good news about the situation.

"When people hear about these scams involving pups they get so upset for the poor dogs," said Alison Preszler, spokeswoman for the council.

"But at least I can say to them, 'There are no real puppies involved. It's all a fake.' "

The problem is real and growing. In the last couple of months local bureaus across the country increasingly have been getting complaints, Cox said.

In April, a Manhattan woman was charged with grand larceny for collecting fees for English bulldog puppies online and then not delivering them. She allegedly told local investigators she shared the proceeds with a Nigerian accomplice.

Kim McDonald of Gallipolis, Ohio wanted an English bulldog for her son. Together they looked over online ads, finally narrowing their choices to three.

McDonald, 41, e-mailed them. "They told me they were at a conference in Nigeria," said McDonald.

She and her son chose a puppy named Emma being offered for free. McDonald sent $350 to cover all costs, including shipping. They were told that flight information would be forthcoming.

But instead came an e-mail asking for $200 more for customs fees to clear the puppy through London.

McDonald had been told the puppy was coming from a breeder in Tennessee. Only the so-called "agent" was in Nigeria.

She called the designated breeder, who told her that operation didn't handle English bulldogs at all.

McDonald e-mailed the "agent," asking for her money back. There was no reply.

She was dismayed — and not just about being scammed.

"We had gotten so excited about this little puppy that was coming," she said. "We were so sad."

So, with her ex-husband agreeing to split the bill, she went to a legitimate local breeder and got an English bulldog puppy. The cost — $1,600.