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Gullible dog lovers in B.C. suckered by 'free' puppy scam

French bulldog puppies. (via Shutterstock)

Consumers are being warned about an online puppy scam victimizing B.C. residents.

Last week, Better Business Bureau received multiple reports on BBB Scam Tracker about an advertisement on for free Beagle puppies being put up for adoption. The fake advertisement lured victims into a scam that tricked them out of $500 each.

The reports from the victims explained that the scammer uses the name Jones Walker, who has Beagle puppies for adoption. Communicating by text message only and using the number (787) 986-0856, the scammer instructs the victims to purchase Google Play cards to cover the cost for paper transfers and shipping.

The victims are then asked to pay a further $1,500 to $2,000 for a crate to ship the puppy, on the premise that the money will be refunded to them.

The scammer explains the delays in shipping or collecting the puppy by telling the victims that the animal is recovering from a routine injection. In other instances, the scammer spoke about a daughter being critically ill in a Calgary hospital.

Since the start of the year, BBB has received 626 reports across North America and 18 in Canada about online puppy scams, with victims losing as much as $5,200.

For 2018, BBB received 1,313 reports across North America and 33 from Canada.

In the current digital age, it is no surprise that the first step in many people’s search for a new pet begins with the internet. However, even the most careful online search is likely to put a consumer in contact with a potential thief. In fact, many experts believe at least 80 per cent of the sponsored advertising links that appear in an internet search for pets may be fraudulent.

BBB is sharing the following tips to consumers:

  • Do not buy a pet without seeing it in person. Arrange to meet directly with the prospective seller. There is no good way to be sure you are not dealing with a fraud if you have no direct in-person contact with the seller.
  • Do an internet search for the picture of the pet you are considering. If the same picture appears on multiple websites, you may be dealing with a fraud. You also can search for text in the ads or testimonials to see if the seller copied it from another site.
  • Never pay a stranger with a money order, gift card, Interac e-transfer or through Western Union or Moneygram. Once payments are made using these methods, it is unlikely you will get the money back.
  • Always use a credit card in case you need to dispute the charges.
  • Research prices for the breed you are interested in adopting.If someone is advertising a purebred dog for free or at a deeply discounted price, you could be dealing with a fraudulent offer.

If you are the victim of an online pet purchase scam:

  • Contact the Canadian Antifraud Centre: Toll Free 1-888-495-8501

If you sent money through Western Union, MoneyGram or a Green Dot MoneyPak, you should contact these companies directly. They can offer information about the transactions.

— Chris Campbell, Burnaby Now