Hawkesbury Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officers are investigating the scam after the victim responded to a social media post advertising a dog for sale late last month. According to police, the supposed seller requested that the victim pay for $400 worth of gift cards and send through the codes.
Once the gift card codes were sent through, the victim was given a false address, then was blocked. “Once the code from the back of a gift card or other such cards is given, it is untraceable and there is no way of identifying the person,” the OPP said in a statement.
Reports of pet scams online have soared across Canada since the start of the pandemic. The Better Business Bureau and Canada's Anti-Fraud Centre have reported increased complaints about such scams, with the bureau anticipating up to $3 million had been lost from such scams in 2020 alone.
The Ontario SPCA recommended against providing large advance deposits when purchasing a dog online. “If someone says they need a deposit to hold an animal for you before you meet them, this is another red flag,” the association’s website recommended. “Just let them know that you are not comfortable with this arrangement, and a reputable breeder should be open to discussing other options with you.”
The SPCA also recommended that prospective buyers ask about any health care the dog had received, as well as the name of the veterinarian who examined or treated the animal. Any payment should be made in cash with a receipt.
The Hawkesbury OPP asked anybody who believed they had fallen victim to fraud, or knew somebody who had, to contact the service at 1 888 310 1122. Reports could also be made to the Anti-Fraud Centre at 1 888 495 8501 or https://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/.