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Online puppy sales scam emerges from lockdown

Posted on in Fraud, News stories

Police advise public never to purchase pets unseen.

North Yorkshire Police is warning local communities after several reports of individuals being scammed whilst trying to purchase puppies online.

Fraudsters advertise puppies for sale online and use the Coronavirus restrictions as a reason why customers can’t visit or see the puppies in person. The seller then asks for money to be transferred in payment for the dog as well as vet bills, vaccinations and other costs, on the promise that the dog will be delivered. Once money has been paid by the customer, the scammers become uncontactable and no puppy ever arrives.

Kevin Ross of North Yorkshire Police’s Fraud and Economic Crime Unit said:

“We’ve seen a number of scams which use lockdown or the Coronavirus restrictions to trick individuals and unfortunately the lure of a new canine companion is one which has resulted in several people losing their money to this scam.

“We advise never to make any purchases online unless from a reputable seller or organisation and preferably by using a third party payment system like Paypal which offers protection from scammers.

“Purchasing a new pet is a decision that should never be taken lightly and we would urge anyone considering doing so to follow the RSPCA’s guidance. Not only will this help keep your money safe but it will also ensure the health and welfare of your new furry friend.”

An RSPCA spokesperson said:

“We’d always encourage any family thinking of getting a dog to adopt a pet from their local rescue centre. If buying a puppy then we’d urge everyone to use The Puppy Contract to help them buy responsibly and find a happy, healthy dog. Most importantly, if you’re concerned about anything you see then walk away and contact the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999 or the local council.”

RSPCA top tips for buying a happy, healthy dog

New legislation has recently been introduced in England which means that you can only get a puppy from the place they were born or a reputable rehoming centre. But being able to visit, choose and get a puppy from either place will currently be more difficult due to the restrictions on movement. If you do decide to go ahead and get a puppy then you need to be really careful and make sure that you don’t get caught out by an illegal third party dealer. It’s also important to consider whether you could care for a dog once the lockdown is lifted.

Here are some tips for buying a dog once these extraordinary measures are lifted:

  • Always consider giving a rescue pet a new home instead of buying: rspca.org.uk/findapet;
  • Do lots of research and ensure you can commit to a dog before getting one;
  • Ask the breeder lots of questions, visit the puppy multiple times and ask to see paperwork (licensing, health checks, vaccination records etc);
  • See the pup’s mum and watch her interacting with the litter;
  • Never pay cash and if anything concerns you then do not hand over any money or buy a puppy, walk away and contact the RSPCA, local council or police.

If you have been a victim of a scam, please report this to the police by calling 101. We can offer support and advice as well as helping build a profile of the different scams in operation so we can better protect others from falling victim.

Last modified: July 3, 2020