puppy scam

Police warn of an increase in puppy scams in Ontario

This summer is about to be one that's filled with outdoor activities, staycations and social distancing — and that means there's never been a better time to take the leap and become a parent to an adorable pup in need of a home.

But before you hand over a chunk of change to a stranger on the internet in exchange for a furry companion, don't forget to do your due diligence and make sure the exchange is legitimate. 

If you don't, you just might end up in a pet-free home and even more strapped for cash than you were before, according to Durham Regional Police.

Investigators from the DRPS Financial Crimes Unit say they've seen an increase in puppy scams since January, and they're advising Ontarians to take several important steps in order to avoid getting duped.

"Investigators in Durham Region have had over fifteen incidents reported in 2020 where the victim saw an ad online, responded to the ad, sent money with the presumption that they would receive a puppy and never receiving anything in return," reads a Durham Regional police news release

"In some cases, the fraudster would ask for transport fees, custom fees or medical costs before the dog is delivered. Once the payment is made they continued to demand more money for fees of a non-existent pet."

Police say some fraudsters use cute photos and videos of puppies to lure their victims, and some offer a pedigree pet at an extremely low cost. Most of the time, according to police, sellers will claim they moved further away and often overseas.

In one incident, the victim lost over $1,800 for a puppy he never received.

To prevent people from falling prey to these heartless scams, police are recommending that anyone purchasing a puppy online make attempts to pick it up in person.

Police also say residents should not send money before receiving a product from an unknown source or share personal or financial information, and they should do research carefully to verify a website's legitimacy. 

Ontarians should also ask for references, not just testimonials on a website, and people can also perform an online reverse image search on the puppy photo to see if it's linked to scams and other websites. 

"Call the seller and speak to them in person, usually scammers will avoid this," police wrote in the release.

"Contact local reputable breeders and shelters. Buy local if you can and if the price is too good to be true, it's probably not true."

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