A Saanich woman has lost thousands of dollars over the course of just two weeks as she tried to buy a puppy from an online site.

On December 4, 2022, she responded to an online advertisement on Facebook Marketplace that listed a Maltese puppy for sale. The seller stated they were from the United States and directed her to a website showcasing the dogs for sale. This site has since been taken down.

The seller then requested a money transfer for the puppy. Once received, and as is common practice with these scammers, they then requested additional money transfers for fees such as shots, licencing, registration, and more. The seller then began demanding and threatening more money or else the welfare of the puppy would be put at risk.

When the company facilitating the money transfers alerted the victim that this was likely a fraud, she notified the seller, who then demanded she purchase and send pre-paid Visa gift cards or else they would notify the police.

“These scammers often resort to threats to defraud their victims of as much of their money as possible,” said Cst. Markus Anastasiades.

The victim purchased 15 gift cards, which had been tampered with in the store and contained fake cards with altered barcodes. When these cards were loaded by the teller in the store, the money was then sent directly to the scammer.

“We have recently started to see these altered gift cards being reported to police, which demonstrates the level at which these criminals will go to defraud the general public.”

Saanich Police are recommending that people looking to purchase a pet try to do so locally, from a reputable breeder and one that they can visit in person before exchanging any money. As a general rule of thumb, any type of threat issued by the seller should be a warning sign that the purchase is likely fraudulent.

We are also recommending that anyone purchasing prepaid gift cards inspect the barcodes at the back of the cards to determine if they have been tampered with. In this case, the actual card was replaced with a blank card with a barcode sticker.

File 22-23864

Cst. Markus Anastasiades
Public Information & Communications Officer

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