Police have issued a warning about a ‘despicable’ blackmailing scam in which owners of lost dogs are being told to transfer hundreds of pounds or their pet will be killed.
Fraudsters are posing as dognappers and sending threatening messages to people whose animals have disappeared – exploiting any contact details posted online in a plea for information.
Scammers present no proof they have the pet – but urge the owner to pay up or the dog will be harmed.
The victim is then told they have a limited amount of time – usually a day – to make a Bitcoin transfer.
Lancashire Constabulary has revealed that a woman in Longridge – who had lost her lilac and tan French Bulldog Nelly – was sent a message reading: “I have your dog. It’s fine just scared. Send £450 in bitcoin to this bitcoin wallet or I will kill it or sell it or whatever. When you pay send your address and I’ll drop it off. I won’t contact you again or reply.”
The message continued: “This is a throwaway phone. Police can’t help. You have until end of Thursday.”
The victim also received threatening phone calls from a man who claimed he would hurt the dog if the owner did not pay a ransom of £1,000 by 3pm that day.
The supposed kidnapper(s) did not send any proof of Nelly’s whereabouts.
Lancashire police force said it was taking the offences ‘extremely seriously’.
Officers are advising any recipients of these fraudulent messages to avoid responding and call 101 instead.
Juliet Clark of Lancashire Constabulary’s Cyber Crime Unit said: “These despicable individuals play on the emotions of their victims when they are at their most vulnerable.
“As upsetting and tempting as it is to pay the ransom, this is [a] scam. If people are contacted after losing a pet with similar messages, contact police on 101.”
Anybody with information about the whereabouts of Nelly is asked to call police on 101, quoting log 0934 of 31 March 2021.