Fraudsters are tricking victims into buying puppies that don’t exist in an online scam taking advantage of coronavirus lockdown restrictions, police have warned.
North Yorkshire Police issued a warning on Friday following several reports of local people being tricked into parting with their money while attempting to purchase puppies online.
Criminals advertise puppies for sale online and prevent customers visiting or seeing the animals in person before buying, due to COVID-19 social distancing measures.
The seller asks for money to be transferred in payment for the dog as well as vet bills, vaccinations and other costs, on the promise that the dog will be delivered.
But after the victim pays for their new pet, it never arrives and the seller becomes uncontactable.
According to new legislation recently introduced in England, you can only get a puppy from the place they were born, or from a reputable rehoming centre, following a rise of incidents relating to illegal “puppy farming”.
However, the current virus restrictions mean potential owners are unable visit, choose and pick up the animals.
Kevin Ross of North Yorkshire Police’s fraud and economic crimes unit said: “We’ve seen a number of scams which use lockdown or the coronavirus restrictions to trick individuals and unfortunately the lure of a new canine companion is one which has resulted in several people losing their money to this scam.
“We advise never to make any purchases online unless from a reputable seller or organisation and preferably by using a third party payment system like Paypal which offers protection from scammers.”
The force added purchasing a new pet is decision “that should never be taken lightly” and urged buyers to follow guidance released by the RSPCA.
An RSPCA spokesperson said: “We’d always encourage any family thinking of getting a dog to adopt a pet from their local rescue centre.
“If buying a puppy then we’d urge everyone to use The Puppy Contract to help them buy responsibly and find a happy, healthy dog.
“Most importantly, if you’re concerned about anything you see then walk away and contact the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999 or the local council.”
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