Animal charities and breeders have reported a steep increase in the adoption and sale of pets, as households seek companionship during lockdown. However, GoCompare Pet Insurance is urging people to be mindful of scammers and get the right insurance cover.
The warning follows the Kennel Club reporting unprecedented demand for puppies, with full waiting lists and prices double what they were before the coronavirus outbreak.
Sadly, the high demand for pets, soaring prices and lockdown restrictions have left buyers vulnerable to scammers. Action Fraud reported that in March and April, 669 people lost a combined total of £282,686 after paying deposits for pets they’d seen advertised online.
Fraudsters are advertising animals, in particular puppies or kittens, they don’t have and asking victims to pay a deposit to secure a pet. Lockdown restrictions are used as the reason why the victim can’t see the animal first or collect it. After the deposit is paid, scammers ask for additional money to cover insurance, vaccinations and even delivery of the pet.
GoCompare is urging people to properly research sellers and breeders and arrange their own pet insurance once they take ownership.
Pet insurance can protect against the costs of treating your pet if they suffer from an illness or an accident and need treatment from a vet. There is no NHS for animals so, if your pet requires surgery or has an ongoing condition, bills can quickly escalate to £1,000s. Owners are legally responsible for any injury or damage they cause, which can also be expensive if your pet isn’t insured.
Depending on what type of policy you buy, pet insurance can also help with:
- Loss or theft of your pet.
- Death by illness or injury.
- Dental care.
- Alternative treatments.
- Treatment for behavioural problems.
According to the Association of British Insurers, its members paid out a record £815 million in 2019 to cover 992,000 pet insurance claims across the UK. The average claim paid was £822.
There are four types of pet insurance policies to choose from:
This helps cover the cost of treatment if your pet is involved in an accident. It doesn’t cover illnesses, diseases or have any other benefits. It won’t cover pre-existing conditions either.
These policies cap how much you can claim for treatment, with a time limit too - usually 12 months. You can’t claim again for a condition after the 12-month period is up, or if you reach the cap on treatment costs. Pre-existing conditions are not covered.
- Maximum benefit
This type of cover provides an annual sum to claim throughout the year. It can be per policy, per condition, or both. When you reach the claim limit for a condition, you can’t claim it again. Any pre-existing conditions will not be covered.
Lifetime pet insurance pays for injuries or illnesses with no time limit on each condition. However, there is usually a limit on the amount you can claim in a year for each condition. Provided you keep renewing your policy, you will get continuous cover for the illness or injury. Pre-existing conditions are not covered.
Lee Griffin, founder and CEO of GoCompare commented, “The coronavirus outbreak has cut many people off from loved ones, having the companionship of a pet can be especially comforting and beneficial for those living in lockdown on their own. With more time at home, many households have also seen lockdown as an ideal time to introduce a pet into their family.
“Sadly, there are criminals looking to profit from the situation, either by selling animals that don’t exist or puppies that have been poorly bred and can suffer from ill health or behavioural problems. So, if you’re thinking about adding a pet to your household, don’t let your excitement cloud your judgement. A genuine breeder will be eager to ensure the pet is going to a good home and be as keen to ask you questions as you them and, won’t rush you into a purchase.”
Lee Griffin continued, “First-time pet owners are often surprised by the cost of vet bills. As advancements in medical knowledge make more complicated interventions possible, treatment can run into several thousands of pounds. Unless you have significant savings, you need to take out pet insurance to cover these unexpected bills.
“The key to saving money on your pet insurance is to compare quotes and policy features online from a range of insurance companies. That way you can be sure you are getting the right cover for your needs. Spending a little more, rather than simply choosing the cheapest policy, may offer better value for money – but remember to check the policy excess, as you may have a nasty shock when you come to make a claim.”
Action Fraud’s tips to protect against pet sale scams:
- Before buying online, check reviews for the website, or person, you are buying from. If you are unsure, ask trusted friends or family for advice.
- If you can’t physically see the animal in person, ask for a video call. If the seller declines, ask them why. If you have any suspicions, don’t go ahead.
- Avoid paying by bank transfer as it may offer you little protection. Instead, consider using a credit card or a payment service such as PayPal.
- If you think you have fallen victim to a fraud, contact Action Fraud as soon as possible.
To help people choose the best policy for them and their pet, GoCompare Pet Insurance has a series of useful guides on the different types of insurance cover available: http://www.gocompare.com/pet-insurance/guide/.
For further information please contact:
Anders Nilsson or Louisa Marsden at GoCompare on 01633 654 054 / 01633 655 132
Gordon, Jason or Liz at MAW Communications on 01603 505 845
Keep up-to-date with GoCompare on Twitter; @GoCompare
Notes to editors
GoCompare is a comparison website that enables people to compare the costs and features of a wide variety of insurance policies, financial products and energy tariffs.
GoCompare does not charge people to use its services, and it does not accept advertising or sponsored listings, so all product comparisons are unbiased. GoCompare makes its money through fees paid by the providers of products that appear on its various comparison services when a customer buys through the site.
When it launched in 2006, it was the first comparison site to focus on displaying policy details rather than just listing prices, with the aim of helping people to make better-informed decisions when buying their insurance. GoCompare has remained dedicated to helping people choose the most appropriate products rather than just the cheapest, and has teamed up with Defaqto, the independent financial researcher, to integrate additional policy information into a number of its insurance comparison services. This allows people to compare up to an extra 30 features of cover.
GoCompare is the only comparison website to be invited to join the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).