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Alert: Fake puppies and kittens for sale online

29th April 2016

Action Fraud has received a rise in the reporting of pets, and in particular puppies and kittens, being advertised for sale via popular online auction websites.

Fraudsters are placing adverts online using stolen photos of pets claiming they are currently held abroad or somewhere less accessible within the UK.

Once a sale is agreed and payment is made, usually by money transfer or bank transfer, the pet does not materialise. The fraudsters will usually ask for further advanced payments to cover courier charges, shipping fees or vet bills.

Even if further payments are made, the pet will still not materialise as it is likely that the pet does not exist.

Stay within auction guidelines to avoid being scammed:

  • Be cautious if the seller initially requests payment via one method, but later claims that due to ‘issues with their account’ they will need to take the payment via an alternative method such as a bank transfer.
  • 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 the number/email address online.
  • Request details of the courier company being used and consider researching it.
  • Agree a suitable time to meet face to face to agree the purchase and to collect the pet. If the seller is reluctant to meet then it could be an indication that the pet does not exist.
  • A genuine seller should be keen to ensure that the pet is going to a caring and loving new home. If the seller does not express any interest in you and the pet’s new home, be wary.
  • If you think the purchase price is too good to be true then it probably is, especially if the pet is advertised as a pure-breed.
  • Do not be afraid to request copies of the pet’s inoculation history, breed paperwork and certification prior to agreeing a sale. If the seller is reluctant or unable to provide this information it could be an indication that either the pet does not exist or the pet has been illegally bred e.g. it originates from a ‘puppy farm’. A ‘puppy farm’ is a commercial dog breeding enterprise where the sole aim is to maximise profit for the least investment. Commercial dog breeders must be registered with their local authority and undergo regular inspections to ensure that the puppies are bred responsibly and are in turn fit and healthy. Illegally farmed puppies will often be kept in inadequate conditions and are more likely to suffer from ailments and illnesses associated with irresponsible breeding.
  • When thinking of buying a pet, consider buying them in person from rescue centres or from reputable breeders

To report a fraud and receive a police crime reference number, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use our online fraud reporting tool.

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