Police warn of online puppy fraud
November 24, 2020
The Edmonton Police Service is warning citizens to do their research when looking to adopt a new fluffy friend as online puppy fraud becomes more prominent.
In May of 2020, police received a report from a couple who believed they had lost money to a puppy fraud. After deciding to add a new dog to their family, they reportedly began an online search and responded to an ad that they believed belonged to a legitimate breeder. The couple was soon contacted by the seller to discuss the purchase of a puppy, as well as the cost of shipping. The couple reportedly agreed to the terms and sent an e-transfer to the seller. A day later, the seller allegedly reached out to request several hundred additional dollars for a travel crate and travel vaccinations, claiming they were required prior to shipping. The couple once again agreed to pay. The seller then reportedly reached out a third time to request several thousand additional dollars for pet travel insurance, which they claimed would be refunded when the puppy arrived. Becoming suspicious, the couple reportedly ended communication with the seller and contacted the EPS.
“Unfortunately, this is only one of many reports,” says Acting Detective Dana Gehring with the EPS Cyber Crimes Investigations Unit. “As more citizens add furry friends to their families during the pandemic, fraudsters have found a way to take advantage of them.”
Since October 2019, the Edmonton Police Service has received 17 complaints of online puppy fraud, with individual losses ranging from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. In total, more than $40,000 has been defrauded from citizens over a 13-month period.
While each situation is unique, the frauds seem to follow a similar pattern and often begin with the victim conducting an online search that leads them to fraudulent websites/ads for breeders/suppliers. In most cases the purchase price is largely undervalued, and the fraudster will add additional costs like insurance, vet bills, shipping fees, quarantine housing fees, and more, claiming it must all be paid before the puppy can be sent. Payment is usually sent via e-transfer, though some fraudsters have also asked for payment through Western Union or Bitcoin.
As the holidays approach, investigators anticipate the fraudsters will be ready and waiting and are hopeful this warning will prevent more heartbreaking frauds from taking place.
“These fraudsters frequently try to use the emotion of the situation to their advantage,” says Acting Det. Gehring. “They may claim the puppy is waiting in an airport or shipping facility and will remain there until payment is received, which often tugs at the heartstrings of dog lovers.”
If you are planning to add a new fluffy friend to your home, the EPS advises doing plenty of research to ensure you’re getting a real pet from a trusted organization. When possible, seek out a local organization first. Edmonton has numerous legitimate organizations and registered charities/incorporated societies who have furry friends waiting for their furever homes. If you must search outside of the Edmonton area, keep the following tips in mind:
- Do your research.
- Research adoption fees and prices for the dog you are considering ahead of time. If the price seems too good to be true, it likely is.
- Ask for detailed information about the seller such as full name, phone number and mailing address. Search the seller’s name or phone number online along with the word “scam” or “complaint.”
- Try doing a reverse image search of the website or ad photos. If the same photos show up in older ads, on social media or on other websites, it is likely a scam.
- Ask questions. Responsible breeders and rescues like to discuss and educate you about the dog or breed. Ask anything you want to know, including breed traits, information about the parents, temperament, the dog’s history or health concerns, etc.
- Request proof. Ask for proof of health records/screenings and registration with any breed specific organizations (CKC), all of which you can confirm by calling the veterinarian and organization. This information will also be helpful when you bring your dog home.
- Meet in person. If possible, ask to meet the seller and the dog in person or, at minimum, meet them both via video call. If the seller declines, ask why.
- Avoid providing payment via e-transfer, Bitcoin or using a money transfer service. Scammers often use these forms of payment because they are like cash; 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 or PayPal.
- Be patient. If the seller seems anxious to complete the sale, get your deposit or pushes you to make a quick decision, be cautious. Likewise, 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.
Have you lost money to online puppy fraud? Do you have information about an ongoing puppy fraud? Contact the EPS at 780-423-4567 or #311 from a mobile phone. Anonymous information can also be submitted to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online at www.p3tips.com/250.
Running Reins Ranch in Red Deer County picks up $250,000 grant from province
Running Reins Ranch partners with members of the local Indigenous community to set-up teepee accommodations and host regular cultural programming for guests.
Tourism investment fuels growth in rural Alberta
Alberta’s government continues to support regional tourism opportunities across the province, generating jobs and new tourism destinations for locals and visitors alike.
Ahead of World Tourism Day 2023, Minister of Tourism and Sport Joseph Schow visited Running Reins Ranch to see first-hand how tourism investment grants are making a difference in the lives of Albertans.
“Alberta’s government is proud to invest in growing visitor destinations like Running Reins Ranch that celebrate the richness and diversity of Alberta’s rural destinations and provide a sustainable tourism experience for visitors to enjoy.”
As part of the Tourism Investment Program, Running Reins Ranch received a $250,000 grant from Travel Alberta.
“Our investment will support the building of additional unique accommodations at the ranch that will triple their capacity, emphasize their year-round offerings and create five new full-time jobs. This investment in Running Reins Ranch is a perfect example of how Travel Alberta is driving tourism growth in rural communities across the province.”
Running Reins is located east of Innisfail, offering cabin and teepee accommodations and a wide range of outdoor activities for visitors looking to combine the beauty of the Prairies with farm experiences for a one-of-a-kind getaway.
Right to Left: Minister of Tourism and Sport Joseph Schow, Owners of Running Reins Ranch Terry and Janice Scott, and team member Grace Finlan.
“This funding is a game-changer for us and our business. We are excited to bring our vision to life and provide visitors with unforgettable experiences while supporting the economic growth of the surrounding community.”
Tourism is Alberta’s No. 1 service export sector. In 2019, Alberta welcomed 34.6 million visitors, generating $10.1 billion in expenditures and supporting more than 80,000 full-time jobs. The Tourism Investment Program is Travel Alberta’s commitment to investing $15 million annually with communities and operators to develop the province’s tourism sector. Developing Alberta’s rural and agri-tourism sector is an essential component of the government’s efforts to grow Alberta’s tourism economy to more than $20 billion by 2035.
- In 2022-23, Travel Alberta funded 166 projects across 73 communities – about 75 per cent of the projects and 70 per cent of the funding were in smaller urban and rural areas of the province.
- In December 2022, Alberta’s government released its Economic Development in Rural Alberta Plan, with supporting initiatives that demonstrate the government’s commitment to building healthy and prosperous communities across rural Alberta and Indigenous communities.
Company at centre of E. coli outbreak at Calgary daycares faces licensing charges
Alberta Health Minister Adriana LaGrange speaks to the media about an E. coli outbreak linked to multiple Calgary daycares in Calgary on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
By Colette Derworiz in Calgary
The company that runs a commercial kitchen at the centre of an E. coli outbreak that has infected hundreds at numerous Calgary daycares has been charged with operating without a business licence.
The City of Calgary announced Wednesday that Fueling Minds Inc. and its two directors face a total of 12 charges under municipal business bylaws and face a total fine of up to $120,000.
The company declined to comment on the charges in an emailed statement Wednesday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Alberta chief medical officer Dr. Mark Joffe said the number of cases has plateaued at 351, and tests and interviews indicate the cause of the outbreak was meat loaf and vegan loaf.
He said there are also 37 confirmed secondary cases and four children remain in hospital.
Fueling Minds provided meals to six of its own daycares that were affected by the outbreak, which was declared Sept. 4, and also to five separate daycares.
The city alleges Fueling Minds did not have the proper licence to serve those other five.
Joffe said the investigation into the cause of the outbreak included interviews with hundreds of parents and daycare staffers and the testing of 44 food samples.
“We believe that meat loaf and vegan loaf meals that were served for lunch on Aug. 29 most likely contained the E. coli bacteria that led to these infections,” said Joffe.
“Unfortunately, neither of these items could be tested as they were either eaten or discarded before this outbreak was identified.
“While we now have a likely source, what we do not know exactly is what was contaminated or how.”
The company’s statement said the “exact source of the infections has not yet been identified” and it continues to work with Alberta Health Services on its ongoing investigation.
Joffe said the province is to hire a third party to verify its work and findings.
Premier Danielle Smith said former Calgary police chief Rick Hanson would lead a panel to investigate what went wrong and make recommendations on how to make commercially prepared food safer in daycares.
Smith said the panel does not have a set timeline, but she expects to hear from him monthly and would implement interim recommendations if necessary rather than wait for the final report.
“Mr. Hanson will be joined by Alberta parents, childcare operators, food service operators, and food safety and public health experts,” said Smith.
“The panel will be examining all aspects of this tragic situation, large and small, as well as taking a full broader look at the legislation and regulations that govern food safety in our province.”
Smith said she met with parents of affected children, and a policy change they suggested was posting kitchen health inspection reports in a daycare rather than just online.
Health Minister Adriana LaGrange and Searle Turton, minister for children and family services, are already reviewing food handling in commercial daycare kitchens.
The kitchen remains closed and in recent months has been flagged for numerous health violations, including food transportation concerns.
Diana Batten, the Opposition NDP critic for childcare and child and family services, said Wednesday’s developments were a good start to getting answers.
“This will really help some of the families I’m speaking with,” she told reporters.
“However, it brings up or illustrates there’s a lot of problems inside the system. We heard Premier Smith talk about how we should trust now that the system is safe. Why? We continue to identify more concerns.”
Batten said a panel isn’t going to help solve those problems.
“It’s just spending more money and, honestly, putting a Band-Aid on what is honestly a huge public health crisis.”
The province has promised parents affected by the closures in the original 11 daycares a one-time payment of $2,000 per child to cover off financial hardship. Those facilities were closed Sept. 4 but have since reopened.
Eight more daycares faced closures or partial closures in the days that followed as secondary cases were identified.
Smith said last week that the compensation program would only be available to parents of the 11 daycares at the root of the outbreak.
Turton, however, confirmed parents affected by the later closures would also be eligible for the one-time payments, and that was the plan all along.
“The program hasn’t expanded,” said Turton.
“It’s important to note that just more daycares since the original announcement have actually become eligible for those payments.”
— With files from Dean Bennett in Edmonton
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Sept. 27, 2023.
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