People are being warned to beware fake adverts when buying puppies online

More than £ 2 million was lost in the past year from those hoping to become pet owners.

Demand for dogs has increased during the pandemic, with Google searches for “buy a puppy” increasing 166 percent.

However, those who are still hoping to get their own pooch are warned of fake online advertisements.

Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting office, said fraud cases had increased by 20 percent.

Criminals looking to capitalize on the lockdown-fueled pet boom earned an estimated £ 2.6 million in fiscal 2020/21.

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People have lost money after replying to posts promoting dogs and puppies, as well as cats and kittens, on social media, online marketplaces, and even pet selling platforms.

In many cases, animal lovers have been encouraged to hand over funds as a deposit after presenting cute pictures – just so as not to deliver an animal.

Action Fraud says criminals often used COVID-19 restrictions as an excuse for not being able to view the site at first.

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

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The organization also found that just over a quarter of the scammers were between 20 and 29 years old, and 74 percent were 20 to 49 years old.

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

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

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

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Another piece of advice from Action Fraud when buying a pet over the internet is to do your research and trust your instincts.

They also advise being careful which payment method you use – by going for credit card or services like PayPal over bank transfer, as this makes it easier to reclaim money if something goes wrong.

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

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

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