Puppy and kitten deposit scams are on the rise

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As more people are looking to buy pets during lockdown, fraudsters have spotted an opportunity to make some easy money. And there are few better ways to lure you in than with the promise of an adorable puppy!

It might sound too mean to be true. But fraudsters are tricking people into paying deposits for cute kittens and puppies, that don’t actually exist! 

Beware of buying puppies or kittens on Gumtree or Facebook

You’ve decided you want to buy a pet. And while you’re browsing a site like Gumtree or Facebook, you find the perfect kitten or puppy and fall totally in love.

You send the seller a deposit of around £200-£300. But when you follow up to find out how to get your new pet, you never hear back from them again.

It’s only legal to buy puppies and kittens from licensed breeders, or adopt them from a rescue

On 6th April, the UK government passed a law that makes it illegal for ‘commercial third parties’ to sell puppies and kittens. Now, only licenced breeders can sell puppies and kittens, or you can adopt one from a rescue. 

This law is called “Lucy’s Law” after Lucy, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who was rescued from a puppy farm where she was living in terrible conditions. There are puppy farms across the UK that use third-party sellers or ‘dealers’ to distribute pets that are often sick, traumatised and unsocialised, after being taken away from their mothers at just a few weeks old.

An add with three puppies being sold cheaply

How to buy a puppy or kitten, without getting scammed

Although taking advantage of prospective puppy owners seems particularly cruel, these scams are typical examples of a common kind of fraud called ‘purchase scams.’ 

You pay for something you’re buying online by bank transfer, but it never arrives. You try and contact the seller, but they block you. And you never get your money back.

These sellers can look and sound legit, and it can be tricky to tell the difference between a scam and the real deal.

To avoid getting scammed when you’re buying a pet, follow these rules:

  1. Is the seller trustworthy? Check their online reviews! If you’re buying a puppy or kitten, you should only use a licenced breeder, or rescue one from a shelter. No one on Gumtree or Facebook should be selling them!

  2. Always video call the breeder to check they’re legit. In normal times you could go to see the breeder and visit your new pet in person. But with coronavirus, this might not be possible.

  3. Think twice about buying your pet at a knock down price! Fraudsters try to lure you in with really low prices, or by offering really rare breeds that you’d find almost impossible to get anywhere else. So question any offers that sound too good to be true! 

  4. Pay with a credit or debit card, or PayPal. Avoid making bank transfers to people you don’t know. Bank transfers are almost instant. And if you have paid a fraudster, they usually move the money out of their account as soon as you send it. So it’s very hard to get your money back once you’ve sent it.

If you want to learn more about other scams we’re seeing, you can read about them here

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