The lockdown response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has led to many people feeling socially isolated. The ‘new normal’ has led to a rise in people looking for a furry companion to keep them company, with adverts for dogs, cats and other animals filling social media and pet sale platforms.
Sadly it seems that the scams have spread to the world of pet sales. The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) has noted a sharp rise in scams related to COVID-19, and the national fraud reporting centre, Action Fraud, estimates that £2 million has been taken by fraudsters so far. These schemes range from the telephone to text, email and social media, to the doorstep.
Action Fraud reports that 669 people lost almost £300,000 to phoney pet ads in March and April, after putting down deposits. It doesn’t stop there, with some fraudsters getting additional cash out of victims for bogus vaccinations and other fake add-ons.
The RSPCA has warned that getting an animal from an adoption centre, or a reputable breeder is unlikely during lockdown, and travelling to collect an animal is not considered essential travel.
CTSI Lead Officer for Animal Welfare, Steph Young, said: “Lockdown has brought a great deal of change and challenges to the way we all live. It breaks my heart that some people are using people’s increased desire for companionship during lockdown to swindle them out of money.
“We should all be increasingly vigilant and sceptical of adverts during this period. While the pictures may look cute, they might be of an animal that has nothing to do with the seller advertising it.
“While it may be tempting to purchase an animal companion, it is best that people hold off from buying animals until after the government lifts lockdown.”
CTSI Lead Officer, Katherine Hart, added: “The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has led to an unprecedented surge in scams throughout the country. CTSI is working with our partners in the consumer protection sphere to warn and protect the public from newly emerging scams themed around the crisis. If we all share these messages and report instances of scams, we will help minimise the negative impacts of these behaviours during this period.”
To report instances of fraud, contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2050 or use the online form reporting tool.