People are advised to beware of fake ads when buying puppies online

Over £ 2million has been lost to those hoping to become pet owners in the past year.

Demand for dogs has skyrocketed during the pandemic, with Google searches to “buy a puppy” increasing 166%.

However, those who still hope to acquire their own dog are warned against bogus online advertising.

Fraud in action, the UK’s national reporting center for fraud and cybercrime, said there had been a 20% increase in scams.

Criminals seeking to cash in on the lockdown-driven pet boom made around £ 2.6million in fiscal year 2020/21.

Read more: The most common dog dilemmas new owners face (and how to sort them)

People have lost money after responding to posts advertising dogs and puppies as well as cats and kittens on social media, online marketplaces and – even – pet sales platforms. company.

In many cases, animal lovers have been encouraged to return funds on deposit, having received some pretty photos – only so that no animals are delivered.

Action Fraud says criminals have often used COVID-19 restrictions as an excuse to explain why no viewing could take place first.

After paying the deposit, some were then asked to fork out for other costs, such as insurance, vaccinations and delivery.

Read more: Grief like no other – why I became a pet grief counselor

The organization also found that just over a quarter of those who fell victim to scams were between 20 and 29 years old, with 74% between 20 and 49 years old.

The vast majority – 71% – had tried to buy a dog or puppy, with 20% hoping to welcome a cat or kitten into their home.

Pauline Smith, Director of Action Fraud, said: “Criminals have used and will continue to use the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to defraud unsuspecting victims. “

She added, “We always recommend that you see the animal in person before paying any money. If you can’t see the animal in person, request a video call. “

Read more: The gadget every anxious pet owner needs as the lock softens

Other tips from Action Fraud when buying a pet on the Internet include doing your research and trusting your gut instincts.

They also advise being careful about what payment method you use – opting for a credit card or services like PayPal over wire transfer, as this will make it easier to collect the money if something goes wrong.

A report released in March found that 3.2 million homes had acquired new pets during the pandemic.

According to the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association, more than half of the new owners were between the ages of 16 and 34.

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