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A woman who allegedly scammed people desperate to buy a French Bulldog during the pandemic has been hit with a string of charges.

Victoria Police said the 42-year-old woman advertised the sought-after puppies in online marketplaces, demanding big deposits as well as transport and veterinary costs, before stopping all contact.

There was no refund and the purebred puppies never arrived.

It is alleged her five victims lost a total of more than $30,000 in the scams, run between January and April 2020, and one victim lost more than $18,000.

“We appreciate that during difficult times, people may look for a furry friend to get them through lockdown and the current environment has allowed opportunistic thieves to take advantage of people and their families,” detective acting sergeant Catherine Weeks said in a statement released Saturday.

“We encourage you where possible to delay any purchases until you can see the dog in person.”

French Bulldogs are an affectionate breed that usually cost about $4000, but soaring demand during lockdowns has seen prices surge to more than $10,000.

The National Kennel Council has established an ongoing taskforce to look at corrupt practices in French Bulldog breeding.

Detectives arrested the woman in Blairgowrie on Wednesday.

She has been charged with five counts of fraud and will appear in court in February.

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