Police are warning animal lovers to be on their guard if they buy pets that are advertised for sale via popular online auction websites.
Action Fraud, the national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre, says it has noticed a rise in reports of people falling for internet scams involving the sale of pets, particularly puppies.
The fraudsters will place an advert of the pet for sale, claiming to have recently moved abroad and that they need to rehome the animal.
Once a sale is agreed and payment is made, usually by money transfer or bank transfer, the pet does not materialise.
The fraudster will usually ask for further advanced payments for courier charges, shipping fees or vet bills.
Police are offering the following advice to consumers:
Stay within the auction site’s guidelines. Be wary of paying fees via a money service bureau, such as MoneyGram and Western Union.
Consider conducting research on other information provided by the seller; for example, a mobile phone number or email address used by the seller could alert you to any negative information associated with this number online.
Request details of the courier company being used and conduct enquiries regarding the company.
Agree a suitable time to meet face to face to agree the purchase.
Be wary. If you think the purchase price is too good to be true, then this is probably an indication that it is.
If you believe that you have been a victim of a fraud involving the sale of a pet, you can report it online at actionfraud.police.uk/report_fraud or by telephone on 0300 123 2040.