ActionFraud - National Fraud & Cyber Crime Reporting Centre - Call 0300 123 2040

Paws for thought when buying a pet online

Action Fraud is reminding animal lovers to take extra care when buying a pet online.

Action Fraud is reminding animal lovers to take extra care when buying a pet online, as figures show more than £2.5 million has been lost to criminals through fake pet adverts.

Data from Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime, reveals that £2,638,323 was lost by prospective pet owners in the 2020/21 financial year, after they put down deposits for pets they saw advertised online – an increase of over 20 per cent compared to the previous financial year.

Capitalising on the rise in people getting pets due to the national lockdowns caused by coronavirus, criminals have been posting fake adverts on social media, online marketplaces and specific pet-selling platforms.

Unsuspecting victims will be asked to pay a deposit for the pet without seeing it in person first, with many criminals using the restrictions caused by the pandemic as a reason why they cannot see the animal. After the initial payment is made, more and more funds will be requested to cover additional costs such as insurance, vaccinations and even delivery of the pet.

How to protect yourself

Do your research: if you’re making a purchase from a website or person you don’t know and trust, carry out some research first. Look up reviews of the website or person you’re buying from. If you’re purchasing an item from an online marketplace, you can view the seller’s feedback history before going ahead with the purchase.

Trust your instincts: if you’re unable to view the animal in person, ask for a video call. If you’re buying a young animal, make sure you’re able to see the mother and rest of the litter. Any responsible seller will understand why you want to view the animal in person. If the seller declines, challenge them on why. If you have any suspicions, do not pay any money until you’re certain it’s genuine.

Choose your payment method wisely: avoid paying by bank transfer. Credit card or payment services such as PayPal give you a better chance of recovering your money if you become a victim of fraud.

When things go wrong: Anyone can fall victim to fraud. If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040. If you're in Scotland, you can report it to Police Scotland on 101.

Action Fraud also advises that the public follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign to keep themselves safe from fraud.

  • Stop: taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
  • Challenge: could it be fake? It’s okay to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
  • Protect: if you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040. If you're in Scotland, you can report it to Police Scotland on 101.