Police warning after puppy scam claims new victims in our region

The Eastern Region Special Operations Unit has warned of a new online puppy sales scam. Picture; RS

The Eastern Region Special Operations Unit has warned of a new online puppy sales scam. Picture; RSPCA - Credit: Archant

People from across our area are being advised to be extra vigilant when buying pets online, as police have received a number of reports of fraud.

In the last three weeks, the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit – which investigates fraud across the East of England – has received 10 reports of people being tricked out of their money after responding to online adverts to buy a puppy.

On each occasion, the buyer transferred money to the seller – however when they went to collect the puppy they find that the address given is incorrect.

Police believe one address was given to nine different people, who attended to collect a puppy only to find the homeowner had no knowledge of the advert.

Offenders are using the COVID–19 lockdown as a reason for requesting the money for the puppy before the exchange is due to take place.

Det Sgt Kieran Doyle, from the ERSOU’s regional economic crime unit, said: “Sadly there are unscrupulous people who are looking to take advantage of the current lockdown situation by tricking people into handing over money in scams such as this one.

“Not only are people handing over large sums of money for a pet they will never receive, they also have to deal with the emotional fall out and disappointment of the situation.

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“We would urge people to be cautious before buying anything online, but in particular animals such as puppies.

“If someone is requesting full payment before you have physically seen the puppy, or if they’ve demanded a bank transfer rather than accepting PayPal or payment on collection, then we would advise you not to go ahead with the sale.

“The fraudster may also request further fees for travel insurance, documentation, or equipment. However this never materialises.

“We’d also ask that you take the time to properly research the seller – in scams such as this the seller’s details are often linked to multiple adverts on several different selling sites, which could be another red flag.”

To help protect consumers from scams, Action Fraud have released the following advice:

Do your research - Before purchasing anything online, look up reviews for the site or seller you are buying from. If you’re still not sure, ask a trusted friend or family member for their advice.

Trust your instinct – If you can’t go and see the item in person, ask for a video call. If you have any suspicions, don’t go ahead with the purchase.

Choose your payment method wisely – If you decide to go ahead with the purchase, avoid paying by bank transfer as that offers little protection if you become a victim of fraud. Instead, use a credit card or a payment service such as PayPal.

Anyone who has concerns or information about this scam is urged to contact Action Fraud in the first instance by calling 0300 123 2040 or visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk