Derbyshire police are warning pet owners about a new online scam.
This follows the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) and Action Fraud reporting a rise in the reporting of pets being falsely advertised on popular online auction websites.
The fraudsters will place an advert of a pet for sale, particularly puppies and kittens, for a price that seems too good to miss. They will also often claim that the pet is currently overseas or will need transporting from another location.
Once a sale has been agreed, the suspect will usually request an advance payment by money transfer or bank transfer to secure the deal. However, the pet does not materialise and the fraudsters will continue to ask for further advanced payments to cover the cost of courier charges, shipping fess, and additional transportation costs to bring the non-existent puppy and kitten to the new owner.
Detective Constable, Julie Wheeldon, from the Derbyshire Fraud Investigation Unit, said: “Deciding to bring a new pet in to your family is an exciting time but it is essential to take extra steps to protect yourself if looking to buy online.
“There are many popular auction sites advertising pets for sale but it is important to remember to stay within the auction guidelines and if the purchase price seems too good to be true then it more than likely is, especially if the pet is a pure breed.
“A genuine seller should be keen to ensure that their pet is being rehomed with a caring and loving family, so be wary if the seller doesn’t express interest in you or your home.
“Finally, knowledge is key. Always research the information given by the seller, such as their number or email address, as this could alert you to any negative information associated with them. Also, don’t be afraid to ask more about the pet, from their breed paperwork and certificate of their inoculation history to ensure that they haven’t been illegally bred.”
Other top tips to avoid pet sale scams include:
Be cautious if the seller initially requests payment via one method, but later claims that due to ‘issues with their account’ they will need to take the payment via an alternative method such as a bank transfer;
If the pet is being transported, request details of the courier company being used and consider researching it;
Agree a suitable time to meet face to face to agree the purchase and to collect the pet. If the seller is reluctant to meet then it could be an indication that the pet does not exist;
When thinking of buying a pet, consider buying them in person from rescue centres or from reputable breeders
Do not be afraid to request copies of the pet’s inoculation history, breed paperwork and certification prior to agreeing a sale. If the seller is reluctant or unable to provide this information it could be an indication that either the pet does not exist or the pet has been illegally bred e.g. it originates from a ‘puppy farm’. A ‘puppy farm’ is a commercial dog breeding enterprise where the sole aim is to maximise profit for the least investment. Commercial dog breeders must be registered with their local authority and undergo regular inspections to ensure that the puppies are bred responsibly and are in turn fit and healthy. Illegally farmed puppies will often be kept in inadequate conditions and are more likely to suffer from ailments and illnesses associated with irresponsible breeding.
If you have been affected by this, or any other scam, report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040, or visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk
For information and advice on the latest scams and how to protect yourself, visit the dedicated Stamp out Fraud in Derbyshire webpage: www.derbyshire.police.uk/stampoutfraud