'Despicable' scammer threatened to harm missing dog unless Longridge woman paid £1k ransom
Scammers have been sending fraudulent messages to the owners of lost pets claiming their animals have been dognapped, police said.
Police have warned dog owners of a new scam in which fraudsters target dog owners who have posted their contact details online after their pet has gone missing.
The scammers reportedly tell the victim they have a limited amount of time - usually a day - to transfer bitcoin or their pet will be killed.
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."
A woman in Longridge received threatening phone calls from a man on March 31 claiming he had her lost French Bulldog Nelly.
The offender said they would harm Nelly if she did not pay a ransom of £1,000 by 3pm that day, despite having no proof he had her.
The following day the victim received a message which said: "I have your dog. It's fine, just scared. Send £450 in bitcoin to this bitcoin wallet or I will sell it or whatever. When you pay, send your address and I’ll drop it off.
"I won’t contact you again or reply. This is a throwaway phone. Police can't help. You have until the end of Thursday."
Officers said it was not clear whether the phone call and the message came from the same individual.
"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," Juliet Clark added.
Anybody with information about the whereabouts of Nelly has been urged to contact police by calling 101, quoting log number 0934 of March 31.
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