Action Fraud is warning the public to paws for thought before buying an animal online and purchasing from a website or person you don't know and trust.
Capitalising on the rise in people getting pets due to the national lockdown 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 animal 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.
Action Fraud is therefore urging the public to follow some simple steps to ensure they don't fall victim to pet fraud.
How can you protect yourself from falling victim to pet fraud?
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 instinct: If you’re unable to physically 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 as that offers you little protection if you become a victim of fraud. Use a payment method, such as a credit card if you have one, that offers buyer protection in case anything goes wrong.
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.