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Coronavirus: Pet buyers scammed out of £280K during lockdown

Coronavirus: Pet buyers scammed out of £280K during lockdown

Published by The Stray FM News Team at 6:45am 8th May 2020.

Pet fraud on the rise during lockdown

  • Almost 700 people have become a victim of pet fraud during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Action Fraud says they've been tricked into handing over £280K.
  • It's now urging people to be careful when paying for a pet.

Action Fraud has found that throughout March and April, a total of 669 people have lost a combined £282,686 after paying for pets they've seen advertised online.

The body's concerned that criminals are taking advantage of the coronavirus situation to defraud people who want to add a new member to their family.

We're told the ads selling pets have been posted on social media, selling websites and even specific pet selling platforms.

The fraudsters never have animals to sell and ask victims to put down a deposit before seeing the pets in person, blaming the pandemic for the lack of contact.

There have also been requests for further payments after the deposits have been taken, with scammers claiming to use that to cover insurance, vaccinations and even delivery of the puppies and kittens.

Scammers are targeting people who are looking to buy kittens and puppies at this time

Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud, said:

"The fact criminals will even exploit an international crisis, such as the one we find ourselves in now, to take innocent people's money is especially cruel. But, unfortunately, as we spend more time online, and are forced to adapt to a new way of life, opportunities will arise for criminals to commit fraud.

"During these unprecedented times, it may seem quite plausible that you should have to pay a deposit for a pet and that you wouldn't be able to see the animal in real life first. However, we would encourage you to think carefully before you transfer any money - do you know and trust this person?"

Tips to protect yourself

Advice from Action Fraud includes:

  • Do your research - before purchasing anything online, including pets, look up reviews for the site, or person, you are buying from. If you're still not sure, ask a trusted friend or family member for their advice
  • Trust your instinct - if you can't physically go to see the animal in person, ask for a video call. If the seller declines, challenge them on why. If you have any suspicions, don't go ahead with the purchase
  • Choose your payment method wisely - if you decide to go ahead with the purchase, avoid paying by bank transfer as that offers you little protection if you become a victim of fraud. Instead, use a credit card or a payment service such as PayPal
A Dog is For Life, Not Just for Christmas
Searches online for 'get a puppy' have increased hugely since the lockdown came into effect

Dogs Trust response

The warning about fraud incidents targeting pet buyers comes just days after the Dogs Trust charity revealed that online searches for 'get a puppy' have risen 120 per cent since the Covid-19 crisis began.

They've started a campaign urging people to really think before committing to animal ownership, saying 'a dog is for life, not just for lockdown'.

Paula Boyden, Dogs Trust's Veterinary Director, said: 

"We might be in the midst of a global pandemic, but these devious sellers will still use every trick in the book to scam unsuspecting dog lovers out of their hard-earned money. The impact on families can be devastating and we have been seeing many examples of this cruel practice. 
"Sadly, it's all too easy to be Dogfished. If now is the right time for you to get a dog, identify a Kennel Club Assured Breeder, or find a breeder through personal recommendation, always see a puppy interacting with their mum, even if it's over a video call, ask lots of questions, and ask to see vital paperwork, such as a puppy contract. If you have any doubts or if it feels too good to be true, as hard as it may be, walk away and report the seller."