CRIMINALS have swiped nearly £300,000 from animal lovers looking for pets in lockdown.

Action Fraud, the national fraud and cyber crime agency, received hundreds of scam reports about pets for sale, with fraudsters stealing a total of £282,686 from 669 people.

Victims paid deposits for pets advertised through social media or selling platforms, before being asked for more money and never receiving their animals.

Scammers typically don't have any animals to sell, and will use the coronavirus pandemic and current lockdown restrictions as a reason to prevent victims from visiting their pet before buying, or to stop them picking it up.

After the first payment, fraudsters will request more money to cover insurance, vaccinations, and delivery.

Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud, said: “The fact criminals will even exploit an international crisis, such as the one we find ourselves in now, to take innocent people’s money is especially cruel.

"But, unfortunately, as we spend more time online, and are forced to adapt to a new way of life, opportunities will arise for criminals to commit fraud.

“During these unprecedented times, it may seem quite plausible that you should have to pay a deposit for a pet and that you wouldn’t be able to see the animal in real life first.

"However, we would encourage you to think carefully before you transfer any money – do you know and trust this person?”

People looking to purchase a pet are encouraged to do their research, trust their instincts, and avoid paying by bank transfer where possible.

Visit for information on how to report a scam and what to do if you fall victim to a fraudster.