UK pet owners warned of this 'cruel' pandemic scam

Animal lovers looking to purchase pets during the coronavirus lockdown have collectively been scammed out of more than £280,000 over the past two months, according to Action Fraud.

So far, 669 people have lost a combined total of £282,686 in March and April, after putting down deposits for pets they have seen advertised online.

Adverts were posted on social media, general online selling websites and also specific pet selling platforms.

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Action Fraud said criminals posting these ads, for pets such as kittens and puppies, do not have animals to sell and will ask victims to put down a deposit for the pet to secure the purchase.

Scammers are posting ads targetting pet lovers.
Scammers are posting ads targetting pet lovers.

They use the outbreak of Covid-19 and social distancing restrictions as a reason why the victim cannot come and see the animal first, or pick it up.

After the initial payment, more and more funds will be requested to cover insurance, vaccinations and delivery of the pet.

Action Fraud has received reports of this scam from people all over the UK - with a spike in reports occurring in April when 524 reports were recorded.

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?"

Pet scams are just one of many frauds being attempted during the lockdown.

Others include scammers selling fake coronavirus testing kits, carrying out bogus collections or asking for money to do people's shopping for them and then disappearing with the cash.

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