How to avoid falling victim to ‘fake pet’ scam

Authorities reported a rise in 'fake pet' scams during lockdown Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

Authorities reported a rise in 'fake pet' scams during lockdown Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Authorities are advising animal lovers on how to avoid falling prey to a recent spike in ‘fake pet’ sales on social media.

Officials warned of an increase in nonexistent pets – particularly puppies and kittens being advertised via social media during the coronavirus pandemic.

Suffolk Trading Standards said adverts often claim the pet is being held somewhere inaccessible or overseas, or that lockdown would prevent buyers from visiting to see the animal.

A spokesman said: “The suspect will usually request an advance payment by money transfer or bank transfer. However, the pet does not materialise.

“The fraudster is then not contactable, or will subsequently ask for further advanced payments for courier charges, shipping fees and additional transportation costs.”

Trading Standards said buyers should be cautious of initial requests for payment via one method, but later payment via an alternative method such as a bank transfer due to ‘account issues’.

Buyers should consider researching other information provided by the seller, such as a mobile number, email address, or the courier company being used.

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“Agree a suitable time to meet face-to-face to agree the purchase and collect the pet,” said officials.

“A genuine seller should be keen to ensure that the pet is going to a caring and loving new home. If the seller does not express any interest, be wary.

“If the purchase price is too good to be true, it probably is.

“Do not be afraid to request copies of the pet’s inoculation history, breed paperwork and certification, prior to agreeing a sale.”

If you suspect a scam, report it on 0808 223 1133.

The guidance comes after a cat charity last week warned that demand for ‘lockdown pets’ could make it easier for online vendors to sell poorly-bred kittens.

Cats Protection raised fears of “unscrupulous sellers” looking to capitalise on the pandemic and sell kittens which may be sick or too young to be parted from their mothers.

According to government figures, adverts posted across online marketplaces for puppies, kittens, dogs and cats increased by 125% during lockdown.

The charity said the pandemic had created ideal conditions for sellers wanting to cash-in – with Covid-19 restrictions providing an extra layer of invisibility.