Members of the public are being warned about about rogue websites advertising fake premium rate numbers for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' cruelty line.
Action Fraud, the National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre, said the premium rate 0844 numbers advertised are designed to rack up a heavy bill for the caller and are give a false impression that they're affiliated with the charity.
They warn that when a member of the public dials the fake number they will be charged a premium rate and are then diverted to their National Control Centre.
This means the caller may not be immediately aware of the scam.
The correct number to report 24-hour cruelty to the RSPCA is 0300 1234 999. The call will cost the same as any call to a UK landline number.
The charity conducted a search on Google and found 8 different scam sites with the incorrect 0844 premium rate numbers in the first 10 pages of Google.
Dave Allen, head of education and advice at Action Fraud, 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.”
"Fraudsters don’t care who they target, last year we warned the public about puppies and kittens being advertised for sale via popular online auction websites."