Scamwatch: pet fraud

Your furry friends can be a target for unscrupulous fraudsters...

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Photo of girl and labrador walking on the road

Stay one step ahead of the fraudsters with our series of articles giving you the lowdown on the scams they use to trick people out of their hard-earned cash - and how to avoid being taken in by them.

This week, the numerous scams to watch out for if you are a pet owner or are thinking of becoming one.

How does it work?
The prestigious Crufts dog show was hit by scandal this year when Irish setter Jagger died of suspected poisoning shortly after appearing at Birmingham's NEC.

But valuable show dogs are not the only pets who can become targets for criminals.

Dog fighting rings, for example, scour local papers and websites for offers of free puppies and kittens that they can use as "bait" when training their dogs.

Fraudsters are also known to forge pedigree certificates for animals they are selling in order to trick people into paying over the odds.

And one family from Leamington Spa in Warwickshire was recently targeted by scammers using the disappearance of their beagle Jake to try to extort money from them.

The emails received by the Lissamans, who appealed for information online after losing Jake on December 27 last year, threatened to poison Jake unless they sent money via PayPal.

How can I avoid being caught out?
If you lose a pet and are contacted by someone who claims to have information about his or her whereabouts, look out for signs that you are being caught up in a scam. The most obvious one is that the person contacting you asks to be paid for their help.

One way to dissuade dog fighters from targeting any animals you are giving away, meanwhile, is to require those collecting them to make a donation to an animal charity.

If, on the other hand, you are planning to buy a pedigree animal, it is sensible to only do so after checking its credentials. Pedigree dogs, for example, should be registered with The Kennel Club.

I've been defrauded. What should I do?
As with all types of fraud, you should report suspected pet scams to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 as soon as possible.

If you think you have been contacted by a dog fighting ring, it is also worth getting in touch with the RSPCA.

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