EDMONTON -- The Edmonton Police Service is reminding people to do their research when looking to get a new puppy from online sellers.

Police have received 17 complaints since October 2019, totaling $40,000 in losses.

“Due to the pandemic, we're certainly seeing an increase in these types of frauds and attempts to take money from citizens here in Edmonton,” Acting Detective Dana Gehring with the EPS Cyber Crimes Investigations Unit said.

The warning comes ahead of the holiday season, when police say more fraudsters could be active.

To avoid being a victim of puppy fraud, police recommend doing your research, asking lots of questions and meeting in person.

“These fraudsters frequently try to use the emotion of the situation to their advantage,” Gehring said. “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.”

Police also warn against using e-transfers and bitcoin that can't be tracked. Instead, pay with a credit card or PayPal, which offer some fraud protection.

Gehring said the average individual loss is $2,400. The highest was over $12,000.

Instead of shopping online, police recommend finding local organizations that are registered charities or incorporated societies that are safer and more reputable.

If you have lost money to online fraud, you can contact EPS at 780-423-4567 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.