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Online puppy scams becoming increasingly popular in BC

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RCMP are warning BC residents about the rising prominence of ‘Puppy Scams’ across the province.

According to RCMP Sgt. Kris Clark, these social media scams have been on the rise as more people are looking to bring a four-legged family member home due to the pandemic.

These scams occur when a seller posts an online ad for a puppy, then when a victim inquires about the dog, are asked to pay a deposit.

However, once the money has been sent, the victim is given a fake address to pick up the puppy and then the seller stops responding.

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Clark says to be cautious of these ads which are commonly found on popular social media sites, noting, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

To avoid becoming a victim of a puppy scam, he urges all potential pet buyers to visit the animal before sending any money.

“The biggest step is ensuring you make those physical connections, doing a little bit of homework and background research on the breeder before you actually send any money,” he explains.

One telltale sign of a scam is when a seller posts an ad with a sense of urgency, according to Clark.

“Usually there’s some sort of rush or emergency and anything that’s going to motivate quick action,” he said, “that’s actually a common thing with any scam is they want you to make that decision quickly without giving an opportunity to think about it.”

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Oftentimes spelling mistakes are also found in scam posts, however, that isn’t always the case as sometimes the ads just aren’t as professional as others.

Police are also seeing ads for puppies that need to be rehomed immediately because an emergency has befallen the poster of the ad.

In this instance, when the victim inquires about the dog, they are told a heartbreaking story and then told the puppy will need to be shipped to its new home.

Typically, the victim is then asked to pay thousands of dollars in transportation costs, as well as any insurance and vaccination costs.

Some additional tips to avoiding scammers:

  • If you are in the market for a pet, consider adopting one from a reputable rescue organization or contacting a registered breeder with the Canadian Kennel Club, and whenever possible going to meet the breeder and puppies.
  • If the person is claiming to be a breeder, ask for the breeder registration information and verify the information.
  • If someone is selling a purebred dog at a price that’s too good to be true, it is likely a scam.
  • If an ad says the poster is giving a dog away for free but then asks you to pay for travel and other additional costs, it is likely a scam.
  • If the person is selling an animal, ask for the pet’s veterinarian clinic and call to confirm that the pet is a patient there.
  • Ask for the seller’s phone number. Call and ask specific questions about what the person is selling. If they don’t give a phone number, it could be a sign of a scam.
  • Ask for multiple photos of the puppy. Compare them to ensure the dog is the same in all photos and that they are not stock photos.

To report a cybercrime, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

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