Calgary police warn of increase in puppy scams as holidays near

Dec 8 2020, 9:59 am

Puppy buyers beware.

The Calgary Police Service has issued a release warning Calgarians that puppy scams have been increasing over the past few months, costing victims over $30,000 throughout 2020.

“As we find ourselves in the holiday season and in the middle of a global pandemic, we know that pets can be a great source of companionship, especially for those living alone,” says Constable Kris Anton with the Calgary Police Service Economic Crimes Unit in the release.

“Unfortunately, there are scammers out there who prey on people’s emotions and generosity this time of year. Our goal is to educate citizens about how to protect their personal information and hard-earned money and how to legitimately purchase or adopt a pet.”

The release notes that there have been 33 reports of online puppy scams in 2020 in which the buyer sent a payment, but they never received their puppy.

October and November were the worst offenders, seeing eight and seven reports.

For some context, there were only 10 puppy scam reports in all of 2019, resulting in a loss of around $6,100.

The release even notes that some scenarios see a would-be puppy parent paying the full cost and then arriving at the dog delivery spot just for the seller to never show up.

CPS note that warning signs of puppy scams may include the seller asking for payment upfront, asking for payment methods like Bitcoin or wire money transfers, asking for additional payment for things like travel, insurance, pet crates, etc. and communication becoming less frequent from sellers once the buyer has sent the money.

CPS also offers the following advice for would-be puppy buyers:

  • Research local organizations. Consider using local, trusted organizations that you can contact with questions beforehand. Ask about the price of adopting a pet and if there are known medical costs. If the price seems too good to be true, it likely is.
  • Ask questions. Legitimate breeders and adoption agencies will work with you to offer information about the breed of dog. Ask about breed traits, information about the parents, temperament, the dog’s history, or health concerns.
  • Request proof. Ask for proof of health records/screenings and registration with any breed-specific organizations, all of which you can be confirmed by calling the veterinarian or organization.
  • Meet in person. If possible, ask to meet the seller and the dog in person or, at a minimum, meet them both via video call. If the seller declines, ask why.
  • Avoid providing payment upfront. Scammers often ask for money upfront and usually in the forms of wire money transfers, Bitcoin, or e-transfers. Once payment is sent, it cannot be retrieved. Use a method of payment that has some form of fraud protection, such as a credit card.
  • Be patient. If the seller pushes you to make a quick decision, be cautious. Don’t trust a seller if they claim they must sell the dog quickly, cannot take care of it, or threaten harm to the animal. Responsible breeders and rescues seek out the best homes for their dogs and are typically not in a rush.”

Anyone who believes they may have been the victim of a puppy scam is encouraged to contact the Calgary Police Service’s non-emergency number at 403-266-1234.