Future pet owners warned over fraud scheme


HAMPSHIRE’S future pet owners are being warned of a new online fraud that has so far scammed victims out of £3m.

Fraudsters are advertising pets and pet accessories on online marketplaces at a lower than expected price in an attempt to attract victims.

They are then demanding full payment or a deposit for the animal via bank transfer or electronic wire.

Between March 2012 and April 2018, 5066 reports of this fraud were made to Action Fraud and victims reported losing £3,129,273 during this time – an average of £40,640 per month.

Director of Action Fraud, Pauline Smith, said: “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. If you think you have been a victim of fraud, report it to us.”

In some cases, the fraudsters are telling victims that they need to pay further fees for animal travel insurance, documentation or special travel cages.

Victims are promised that some or all of these extra fees will be refunded when they receive the animal, however once these funds have been transferred, the fraudster will stop all communication.

A report from Action Fraud and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) shows that fraudsters are targeting victims who wish to buy popular breeds.

The highest number of reports related to pugs with 224 reports were made between January 2012 and May 2018, and victims losing £76,451.

Scammers are also offering pet-related products for sale which don’t exist or are not as described.

Equine accessories accounted for 92 per cent of monetary losses.

Dogs Trust veterinary director, Paula Boyden, said: “We are incredibly concerned about the huge numbers of pets advertised for sale via online classified advertising websites.

“Sadly this trade knows no bounds and we are well aware of the lengths these sellers will go to, to turn a profit, including blinding the public with cute images, fake information and too good to be true prices.”