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Don’t let criminals pupset your Christmas!

Action Fraud is warning the public to make sure they’re not barking up the wrong tree this Christmas, as animal lovers have lost almost £2 million to fake pet adverts since March.


Figures from Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime, show that criminals conned 4,751 animals lovers out of £1,935,406 between March and November this year, after they put down deposits for pets they saw advertised online. This is an increase of over 400% when compared to the same period in 2019.

Capitalising on the rise in people getting pets due to the national lockdown caused by coronavirus, criminals have been posting fake adverts on social media, online marketplaces and specific pet-selling platforms. Unsuspecting victims will be asked to pay a deposit for the animal without seeing it in person first, with many criminals using the restrictions caused by the pandemic as a reason why they cannot see the animal. After the initial payment is made, more and more funds will be requested to cover additional costs such as insurance, vaccinations and even delivery of the pet.

In one report received by Action Fraud this year, a victim lost over £14,000 after they purchased three African Grey parrots online. The victim was asked by the suspect to make further payments for transport, insurance and similar costs, but the parrots never arrived.

In another report, a victim lost over £600 after they purchased a puppy online. The victim was later asked by the suspect, who claimed to be from a company responsible for the delivery of the pet, to transfer more funds to cover costs such as vaccinations. The victim transferred the additional funds and was later informed by the suspect that the puppy had died.

Criminals have even gone as far as misleading animal lovers by lying about the breed of the animal they’re selling. One victim reported buying a Cockapoo puppy for £3,000. After speaking to a vet and carrying out a DNA test, they found that the puppy was a Bedlington Terrier. The victim later found out that the puppy had been previously sold to the suspect for £400.

Sadly, it is all too easy to be scammed into buying a dog which may not be what it seems. Dogs Trust calls this Dogfishing. Remember: 

  • Always see puppy and mum together at their home and make sure to visit more than once, even if it is via video call due to coronavirus restrictions.
  • Never pay a deposit up front without seeing the puppy in person. 
  • Ask lots of questions and make sure you see all vital paperwork, such as a puppy contract – which gives lots of information about their parents, breed, health, diet, the puppy’s experiences and more. 
  • If you have any doubts or feel pressured to buy, as hard as it may be, walk away and report the seller to Trading Standards. 

For more information and advice about how to avoid being misled when buying a puppy advertised online, search ‘Dogfished’ or visit

How can you protect yourself from falling victim to pet fraud?

Do your research: If you’re making a purchase from a website or person you don’t know and trust, carry out some research first. Look up reviews of the website or person you’re buying from. If you’re purchasing an item from an online marketplace, you can view the seller’s feedback history before going ahead with the purchase.

Trust your instinct: If you’re unable to physically view the animal in person, ask for a video call. If you’re buying a young animal, make sure you’re able to see the mother and rest of the litter. Any responsible seller will understand why you want to view the animal in person. If the seller declines, challenge them on why. If you have any suspicions, do not pay any money until you’re certain it’s genuine.

Choose your payment method wisely: Avoid paying by bank transfer as that offers you little protection if you become a victim of fraud. Use a payment method, such as a credit card if you have one, that offers buyer protection in case anything goes wrong.

When things go wrong: Anyone can fall victim to fraud. If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud online at or by calling 0300 123 2040.