The demand for dogs has soared during the pandemic, with Google searches for “buy a puppy” rising by 166 per cent.
However, those still hoping to acquire their very own pooch are being warned about fake online adverts.
Criminals seeking to cash in on the lockdown-driven pet boom have raked in an estimated £2.6 million during the 2020/21 financial year.
People have lost money after responding to posts advertising dogs and puppies as well as cats and kittens on social media, online marketplaces and – even – pet-selling platforms.
In many cases, animal-lovers were encouraged to hand over funds as a deposit, after being presented cute pictures – only for no animal to be delivered.
Action Fraud say that criminals often used COVID-19 restrictions as their excuse for why no viewings could take place first.
After paying the deposit, some have then been asked to fork out for other costs, like insurance, vaccinations and delivery.
The organisation also found that just over a quarter of those who fell victim to the scams were between 20 and 29 years old, with 74 per cent aged 20 to 49 years old.