Beware of fake pet adverts, Action Fraud warns
Action Fraud has warned that fraudsters are posting ads for non-existent animals and pet accessories online.
Between March 2012 and April 2018, Action Fraud received 5,066 reports of this fraud, with victims losing £3,129,273 over the period -- an average of more than £40,000 per month.
The perpetrators advertise pets and pet accessories on online marketplaces at a lower than expected price in an attempt to attract victims. They then demand full payment or a deposit for the animal via bank transfer or electronic wire.
To prevent requests to visit the animal, fraudsters will tell victims that it is located in a remote or faraway location, which stops them from travelling to see it.
In some cases, the fraudsters are telling victims that they need to pay further fees for animal travel insurance, documentation or special travel cages, Action Fraud said. Victims are promised that some or all of these extra fees will be refunded when they receive the animal, however once the funds have been transferred, the fraudster will stop all communication, leaving victims out of pocket and with no pet.
In particular, fraudsters are targeting people looking to buy popular breeds. The highest number of reports related to pugs -- 224 reports were made between January 2012 and May 2018, with victims losing £76,451.
Fraudsters are also offering pet-related products for sale which don't exist or are not as described. Equine accessories such as horse boxes or trailers accounted for a majority of the financial losses.
Director of Action Fraud, Pauline Smith, said: "Fraudsters are taking advantage of people looking for pets online, often to bring into their family.
"When a person falls victim to this fraud, the upset and financial loss caused can be huge and the promise of a family pet to children is often left empty.
"This is why it's so important that you follow our advice to help protect yourself and always trust your instincts -- if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is."