/ Money, Scams

Scam watch: pet scams soar during lockdown

Reports of pet scams in April more than tripled compared with March. Have you seen one? Here’s how they work and what you need to watch out for.

Carole had been looking for a golden retriever puppy and saw an advert on the classified adverts website Loot.

She emailed the advertiser and was told that they had two 11-week-old pups to choose from, who needed a new home because their owner had died.

The seller provided photographs and said that she would need to pay £300, which included delivery from Orkney via a specialist animal delivery service.

But things just didn’t feel quite right, so she requested the microchip number and details of their current vet. Carole never heard anything further.

Guide: how to spot a scam

Pet scams on the rise

It’s likely this scam is designed to liberate people from £300 for a non-existent puppy.

Pet scams have soared during lockdown, according to fraud reporting centre Action Fraud. It said that it received 524 reports of it in April – more than three times the number in March.

Loneliness was being cruelly exploited by criminals.

Would-be pet owners are strongly encouraged to visit animals in person first before buying, and many legitimate breeders would insist on it to ensure pets are going to loving and responsible owners.

However, lockdown made such visits difficult, and fraudsters sought to capitalise on it.

What should I ask for when buying a pet?

Ask for a pet’s inoculation history, breed paperwork and certification before paying, to ensure that the pet both exists and was bred legally.

Payment via bank card or PayPal gives you greater protection than a bank transfer.

Consider adopting from a rescue centre. If you’re buying from a dog breeder, you can find reputable ones via the Kennel Club.

Did you notice an increase in pet scams during lockdown? Have you ever attempted to buy a pet only to think something wasn’t quite right?

Let us know in the comments, and help warn as many people as possible to stop fraudsters taking advantage of people in such a cruel way.

Ingrid says:
11 August 2020

No help from government financially for agency worker and told to shield, no u/c as had small private pension £281.00 per month. Expected to live and pay mortgage bills etc.

blake leishman says:
13 August 2020

Hi: Ask for the id chip number. Your Vet can find that on the system if they will not give the chip number it’s a scam.


Betty Ellis says:
13 August 2020

First question to an adult dog private seller – when did it last go to the vet.
Second – how long have you owned it.

The whole situation with dogs at the moment is getting out of hand.

We had promised ourselves we would get a puppy when we moved but the prices of puppies has gone through the roof. Just looking at the adverts on various sites so many of them look dodgy and many of them obviously from puppy farms. We are going to wait until dogs start coming into the the rescue centres when the schools start back and people start going back to offices.

I believe January/February is the best time, traditionally.

Yes – avoid the dog days of high summer that we are experiencing this week.

If you are buying a specific breed from a legitimate and health checking breeder then expect a waiting list of months and those people don’t hike up proces as their priority is a loving home for the puppies they’ve spent 8-10 weeks raising in their homes, with little or no sleep in the early weeks. Puppies from those breeders are reserved before they’re born. Any dog/puppy available immediately needs very careful investigation to prove it’s not been stolen or farmed I’m afraid.

Marlow says:
15 August 2020

You don’t have to pay loads of money for a dog. We got one which was rejected by Hearing Dogs For Deaf People; she was only just over a year old and she lived to the ripe old age (for a dog) of 15 and she could hear very well up until her last couple of years.