Criminals have stolen nearly £300,000 from 669 animal lovers looking for pets during the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to national fraud and cyber crime agency, Action Fraud, criminals have continued to “take advantage” of the coronavirus pandemic to commit fraud after animal lovers have put down deposits for pets they have seen advertised online.
The adverts that victims have responded to were posted on social media, general online selling platforms and also specific pet selling platforms.
Action Fraud said the criminals posting these ads never have any animals to sell and will ask victims to put down a deposit for the pet to secure the purchase.
They use the outbreak of Covid-19 and the current lockdown restrictions as a reason why the victim cannot come and see the animal first, or pick it up. After the initial payment more and more funds will be requested to cover insurance, vaccinations and even delivery of the pet.
Action Fraud has received reports of this scam from people all over the UK with a spike in reports occurring in April when 524 reports were recorded, more than three times the amount received in March.
Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud, said: “The fact criminals will even exploit an international crisis, such as the one we find ourselves in now, to take innocent people’s money is especially cruel. But, unfortunately, as we spend more time online, and are forced to adapt to a new way of life, opportunities will arise for criminals to commit fraud.
“During these unprecedented times, it may seem quite plausible that you should have to pay a deposit for a pet and that you wouldn’t be able to see the animal in real life first. However, we would encourage you to think carefully before you transfer any money – do you know and trust this person?”
The news comes as West Midlands Police has the public against buying pets online without visiting them first, as they fear criminals are taking advantage of the current Covid-19 pandemic.
Online sellers are using the current crisis restrictions as an excuse for not being able to visit the animals and are sending images instead. West Midlands Police revealed 10 reported victims across the area recently.