Specialist police unit for eastern region issues advice after rise in puppy sale fraud

The Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU) tackles serious organised crime and the terrorism threat across the eastern region

Tuesday, 5th May 2020, 11:29 am
Updated Tuesday, 5th May 2020, 11:32 am

People across the eastern region are being warned to be cautious when buying pets online, after police received a number of reports of fraud.

In the last three weeks, the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU), which investigates fraud across the region - including Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire - has received ten reports of people being tricked out of their money after responding to an advert to buy a puppy online.

On each occasion the buyer has transferred the money to the seller, however when they go to collect the puppy, they find that the address they have been given is incorrect.


On one occasion it’s believed one address was given to nine different people, who attended to collect a puppy only to find the homeowner had no knowledge of the advert.

Offenders are using the Covid-19 lockdown as a reason for requesting the money for the puppy before the exchange is due to take place.

Detective Sergeant Kieran Doyle, from the ERSOU’s regional economic crime unit, said: “Sadly there are unscrupulous people who are looking to take advantage of the current lockdown situation by tricking people into handing over money in scams such as this one.

“Not only are people handing over large sums of money for a pet they will never receive, they also have to deal with the emotional fall out and disappointment of the situation.

“We’d urge people to be cautious before buying anything online, but in particular animals such as puppies.

"If someone is requesting full payment before you have physically seen the puppy or if they’ve demanded a bank transfer rather than accepting PayPal or payment on collection, then we would advise you not to go ahead with the sale.

“The fraudster may also request further fees for travel insurance, documentation, or equipment. However this never materialises.

“We’d also ask that you take the time to properly research the seller – in scams such as this the seller’s details are often linked to multiple adverts on several different selling sites, which could be another red flag.”

To help protect yourself from scams like this, Action Fraud have issued the following advice:

- Do your research. Before purchasing anything online, including pets, look up reviews for the site, or person, you are buying from. If you’re still not sure, ask a trusted friend or family member for their advice.

- Trust your instinct. If you can’t physically go to see the animal in person, ask for a video call. If the seller declines, challenge them on why. If you have any suspicions, don’t go ahead with the purchase.

Choose your payment method wisely. If you decide to go ahead with the purchase, avoid paying by bank transfer as that offers you little protection if you become a victim of fraud. Instead, use a credit card or a payment service such as PayPal.

Anyone who has concerns or information about this scam is urged to contact Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk.

The Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU) tackles serious organised crime and the terrorism threat across the eastern region. It is made up of a regional organised crime unit (ROCU) and a counter terrorism policing unit (CTP).

The ROCU carries out investigations into serious and organised crime on behalf of police forces in Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Kent, Norfolk and Suffolk.

The CTP carries out intelligence led work to tackle the terrorism threat across Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk, and Suffolk.