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Warning issued over pet scams

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Police are issuing a warning after people have been duped by pet buying scams.

The suspect typically advertises puppies or kittens online and uses the Covid-19 outbreak as the reason the victim can’t come and see the pet. 

They will often send photos or videos and persuade the victim to make a deposit or even full payment in advance. The suspects may also try to get the victim to cover other unforeseen costs such as insurance or vaccinations, after they’ve made the initial payment. The pet is never provided.

A woman in her 50s from Caterham responded to an advert for a puppy posted on what she thought was a reputable website. The dog was said to be for sale for £1,500 and after seeing pictures and video of the puppy, she was conned into paying a £300 deposit in order to secure it.

It is commonplace to pay a deposit to secure a puppy but the victim became suspicious when the seller asked for a screenshot of the bank transfer. Then she discovered that the name on the bank account and that on the invoice were different. Once the deposit was paid, none of the victims calls or emails were answered and that is when she contacted the police and her bank.

Action Fraud has reported a significant spike in pet buying scams since the Covid-19 outbreak. Nationwide it has seen 669 people lose a combined total of £282,686 in March and April, after putting down deposits for pets they have seen advertised online.

PC Bernadette Lawrie, Financial Abuse Safeguarding Officer for Surrey and Sussex Police said:

“Criminals are on the lookout for any opportunity they can capitalise on – and clearly the extraordinary times we find ourselves in are no exception.

“It makes complete sense that you would not be able to go visit an animal in person at the moment and fraudsters are exploiting this to encourage people to part with their cash.

“Please think very carefully before sending money to a stranger. Make sure you’ve done your research and always trust your instincts.”

To help protect yourself from scams like this:

Do your research – Research sellers carefully before sending over any money, check their terms and conditions and returns policy.

Trust your instinct – If something feels wrong or seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Never be rushed into making a decision – if it doesn’t feel right then walk away.

Choose a payment method that protects you – 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.

Report crime like this to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

If the victim is vulnerable, report to Surrey Police online or by calling 101. In an emergency always dial 999.

For information about Operation Signature, Surrey Police’s campaign to identify and protect vulnerable victims of fraud, see the Force website at www.surrey.police.uk

Coronavirus

Crawley Council Leader: ‘if the Government acts now all the pain can be avoided’

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It’s six years since I became Leader of Crawley Council. At the time I thought the challenges we faced were huge. The council’s budget was almost half what it had been when the cuts began, empty shops littered the town centre, and Crawley hadn’t built council housing in large numbers for decades. How on Earth would we keep services going, regenerate the town centre, and ensure the next generation of Crawley residents could afford somewhere to live?

We worked extremely hard and over the following years the council avoided any further cuts by generating new revenue to replace that lost by ongoing Government cuts to Crawley, the town centre became one of very few in the UK whose footfall increased and saw significant private sector investment, and affordable housing was built in Crawley on a scale the not seen in decades.

Then Covid-19 came. We now know that Crawley’s economy will be the hardest hit in the UK by the lockdown, with tens of thousands of jobs at risk, and 15% of the council’s revenue lost in the process. The challenges facing Crawley when I became Leader were tougher than any the town had ever faced before, but they are a paradise compared to what we face today.

Economists have predicted without Government intervention over half of Crawley’s jobs are at risk. That was before BA and Virgin made their announcements. To be clear, that doesn’t just mean aviation, Gatwick’s economic footprint is so big there will not be a single sector untouched by the airport’s decline. Crawley is regularly rated as having the highest level of employment in the UK, we do not even remotely have any experience of what we face once furloughing ends.

Yet, if the Government acts now all the pain can be avoided. Our economy depends upon aviation. The money from aviation flows across our entire local economy. It is a growing sector and one important enough that the Government were prepared to give away billions of pounds of public money for Heathrow to build a third runway. The only reason aviation is struggling now is due to the Government’s restrictions and those the sector will continue to face once the lockdown ends. By spending a fraction on what they would have spent on a third runway propping up aviation they can preserve a nationally important industry, ensure our sub-region remains one of the biggest sources of economic growth and tax revenue for the Government, and in the process safeguard the livelihoods of tens of thousands in our community.

In the long-term this would pay for itself and in the short-term it would ensure our community avoids destitution. I think it’s an open and shut case. I hope the Government agrees.

Cllr Peter Lamb
Leader, Crawley Borough Council

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