A woman says she was conned out of a £500 deposit for a puppy after replying to an advert online.

Pamela Turner, 70, says that she jumped at the chance to own a five-week old cockapoo when she discovered one for sale from owners in Accrington on popular pet listings site Pets4Homes.

“I’ve wanted to get a dog for a long time and I thought now was the perfect time because of lockdown,” Pamela told LancsLive.

“I’m a grandmother and before lockdown, I would travel down to London every weekend to look after my grandchildren.

“It wouldn’t have been fair to have a dog under those circumstances but now, with everything changing, I probably won’t be doing that as much anymore so thought it was the ideal opportunity to own a dog.”

After seeing the advert online, Pamela, who lives in Didsbury, got in touch with the Accrington owners, who asked for the deposit to secure the pet.

“At the moment, dogs on this website are going within like an hour. You ring up and if you don’t say yes straight away then they tend to go quite quickly,” Pamela says.

“It’s very difficult to get a cockapoo in the North West so I admit I did really rush into it. “I asked for the owner’s bank details and she said ‘I don’t have a bank account but my partner does’, which I thought was a bit weird at the time but I went with it.”

Due to lockdown measures, she was unable to see the dog in person beforehand but was sent a video of the dog, with the owners addressing Pamela in it.

“As soon as I paid the deposit, she let me know she received it and would be back in touch,” Pamela adds.

“By then, I was already a little bit suspicious because she hadn’t given me details on the puppy and whether it was microchipped or anything like that.

“After a few days, I attempted to ring her and she didn’t reply. I eventually managed to get through to her and she was very sharp with me.

“I said to her that I wanted to see the dog and make sure it existed. She told me I couldn’t do that because of social distancing which, of course, she was right about.

“She also told me she hadn’t been able to contact me sooner because she had dropped her phone in the toilet.”

With Pamela’s suspicions growing, she attempted to visit the owners last week when travel restrictions had eased slightly.

It turned out the address they had given her earlier didn’t exist.

“I agree I behaved foolishly. I’m not trying to say I haven’t,” Pamela admits.

“But I suspect other people have done the same thing. Because of the lockdown, there’s no means to go and see the pets listed online. It really does leave it all entirely up to the buyer to trust the seller.

“The fact she didn’t give me enough information should really have been enough of a warning.

“Because I was so anxious to get the dog and had struggled for weeks to get one, I jumped at it.

“I just want to warn others about doing the same thing - I am sure there any many people who have.”

Pamela is now in communication with ActionFraud to see if any action can be taken. On their website, Pets 4Homes warns buyers to be aware of potential frauds and scams, especially during the lockdown.

Further guidance advised sellers not to ask buyers to send a deposit to reserve pets and that purchasers should not be invited to the owners homes.

“We have always encouraged our users to never send deposits unless they have viewed the pet in person and confirmed that the seller is genuine,” a spokesperson for Pets4Home told the Observer.

“During COVID it will naturally be even more important to be extra cautious and we advise a viewing to take place electronically by way of video call if it cannot be done in person.

“Our advice and checklist before rehoming a pet (which is visible in each advert) is closely aligned with that of the RSCPA and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, whom we are in regular dialogue with.”

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