The woman responded to an online ad for a Maltese puppy, but after she sent a requested money order, she was told to buy and send Visa gift cards or the puppy’s life would be at risk.
Saanich police say a woman lost thousands of dollars over the course of two weeks when she tried to buy a puppy from an online site.
The case began when she responded to an advertisement Dec. 4 on Facebook Marketplace listing a Maltese puppy for sale.
The “seller” told her they were from the United States and directed her to a website that had dogs for sale, but that has since been taken down.
The “seller” requested a money order from the woman. Once they received it, however, they asked for additional funds for such things as shots, licensing and registration, and warned the puppy’s welfare would be at risk if they didn’t receive more money.
The company doing the money transfers warned the woman she was likely involved with a fraudster, but when she mentioned that to the “seller”, they demanded that she send them prepaid Visa gift cards.
She was told to go a specific store and buy a particular type of card. They were in packages that had already been tampered with and contained fake cards with altered barcodes. When the 15 cards were loaded by the teller in the store, the money was sent directly to the scammer.
“These scammers often resort to threats to defraud their victims of as much of their money as possible,” said Const. Markus Ansatasiades. “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.”
Police recommend that anyone looking to buy a pet try to do it locally through a reputable dealer who can be seen in person before money is exchanged.
Any seller who issues threats is likely a fraudster, said police, who advised inspecting the barcodes of prepaid gift 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, police said.