Police are warning the public against buying pets online without visiting them first. They fear criminals are taking advantage of the current lockdown to scam people by posting fake advertisements.
The bogus sellers are using covid-19 restrictions as an excuse for not being able to visit the animal and are sending pictures of the pets instead. The victims are persuaded to make payments in advance but the pet is never provided.
The scammer may say the pet will be sent by a courier service that never arrives, or gives an address to collect the pet but on arrival either an empty house or random address is found.
DC Rachel Roberts, financial abuse safeguarding officer for North Wales Constabulary, said: “We have had a number of reports around people buying pets online but then either more money is demanded before sending the animal or the seller stops communication after receiving payment, without delivering the animal. In one case, a scammer tried to demand over £2,000 to be paid towards the delivery of the puppy.
“Criminals are opportunistic and are using the covid-19 pandemic as an excuse for people not to visit animals before buying them.
“Before purchasing a pet online, we’re advising the public to take a moment to carefully consider the deal being offered, as the seller may not be legitimate.”
Kloe Burrows, from the West Midlands force, said: “These con-artists are preying on insecurities during the covid-19 outbreak. People may be feeling lonely due to the lockdown and seeking some companionship; some may want the fresh focus of caring for a new pet.
“These scammers want to take advantage of this and it’s important to take precautions to make sure you’re dealing with a reputable seller and not become a fraud victim.”
The West Midlands police has issued the following advice to families looking to buy a pet:
> Be wary of offers that look too good to be true
> Research the seller and their history and reviews on the website
> Do not be convinced by pictures, they may have been taken from somewhere else on the internet, you can check photos using reverse image search online
> Ask for documentation from the owner of the puppy or kitten
> If you have fallen victim of a scam and sent money via a bank transfer make sure you contact your bank in the first instance.