Rogue websites advertising fake numbers for the RSPCA cruelty line are scamming the public and potentially leaving animals without the care they need.
The premium rate numbers cause a heavy bill for the caller and are then diverted to the RSPCA National Control Centre.
The charity is urging people to make sure they have the correct number for reporting animal cruelty, and to avoid these ‘0844’ phone call scams.
A search found eight different sites with incorrect numbers in the first 10 pages of Google.
Dave Allen, head of education and advice, said: “The amount of sites out there advertising incorrect contact numbers for our charity is very worrying. We’re urging people to watch out for websites with fake numbers and information that doesn’t sound quite right. Some of the sites can be quite convincing with unauthorised feeds from our official Twitter and Facebook page which makes them look all the more real.
“Unfortunately it can be difficult to get these sites shut down, but we’ve been trying to solve this issue by reporting the problem to Google so that the sites aren’t ranked highly in searches. We’ve also lodged a complaint to the UK’s communications regulator OFCOM and now we’re trying to raise awareness of this scam with the general public.
“Not only can these numbers leave people with a hefty phone bill, but it also means members of the public may be put off contacting us when an animal is in desperate need of care.”
“Unfortunately, we’ve received complaints when a person believes they have contacted our national control centre directly but they’ve actually contacted us via an 0844 number and been left with a huge bill instead.
“Calls direct to us cost the same as a call to any UK landline number. However, these fake and premium rate numbers can charge as much as 7p a minute plus your phone provider’s access charge.
“We rely on the public to contact us when an animal is in need and the last thing we want is for someone to be put off by an awful scam like this. Please ensure you have the correct number when searching by clicking on our official website.”
If you need to report cruelty, or a sick or injured animal, contact the 24-hour cruelty line on 0300 1234 999.