Three members of a cyber crime gang who swindled an animal lover out of Dh4,000 ($1,089) in an online dog sale scam have each received a three-month jail sentence.
The gang had offered a golden retriever for sale on the Dubizzle classified website, Dubai Criminal Court heard.
“We take pet adoption and the authenticity of such advertisements very seriously,” said Dubizzle marketing director Sahar Khan.
The company now offers the new Trusted by Dubizzle certification to stop these crimes from happening.
“Such partnerships are extremely valuable to us and will help us to continue to serve the community,” said Ms Khan.
The court heard how a prospective buyer agreed to pay Dh2,500, after being sent pictures and video clips of the pet on WhatsApp.
“I was interested in buying the dog and contacted the buyer through a WhatsApp number in the dog’s advert,” the victim told the court.
“He [one of the gang members] sent me pictures and clips of the dog and said the price would be Dh3,000. After negotiating, the price was dropped to Dh2,500.
“He sent his alleged bank account number and I wired Dh1,500 [as an initial payment, with the remainder on delivery] through an ATM. He told me the dog would be delivered on the same day but later he kept delaying.”
The next day, the purported seller sent details of another bank account and asked the man to transfer D8,000 as a refundable insurance deposit to cover delivery costs.
“I told him I don’t have this amount of money and wired Dh2,500 deposit. Later he switched off his mobile phone and I knew it was a scam,” the victim said.
He reported the incident, which occurred in June, to Bur Dubai Police Station.
Police launched an investigation and tracked down two men, an Indian citizen, 30, and a Filipino, 32.
They were convicted of fraud and illegally obtaining Dh4,000 at a recent hearing.
A third man, a Cameroon citizen, 29, who was involved in the plot, remains at large. He was tried and convicted of the same charges in absentia.
Police said the gang posted pet adverts on various online platforms to lure victims. They would encourage buyers to wire money to them before cutting off contact and failing to provide dogs to customers.
The court ruled that they must also pay a combined fine of Dh4,000 and will be deported after serving their prison terms.
Dubizzle aims to combat illegal pet sales
Dubizzle is offering free certified accounts to registered animal shelters to encourage safe pet adoption, after a surge in illegal sales.
Security systems are also being upgraded to stop users being directed to phishing websites when clicking on links, The National reported in April.
The new Trusted by Dubizzle certification aims to offer peace of mind to those looking to adopt an animal, after reports of dogs sold illegally by unlicensed breeders in Dubai.
Dubizzle has partnered with rescue group K9 Friends, RAK Animal Welfare and Yanni Animal Welfare Society for the campaign.
Trading in animals is illegal in the UAE without a licence and rescue centres must be certified by the Community Development Authority to offer pets for adoption.