Scots cops are warning animal lovers to be wary of pet fraud amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The advice came after fraudsters conned their victims out of nearly £300,000 while the country was on lockdown.
The huge figure was raked in as nearly 700 people across the UK were duped in to handing over their hard-earned cash.
The trusting zoophilists paid deposits for pets advertised online, but the pets did not exist - and their money went straight in to the crooks' pockets.
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And now the force has revealed steps shoppers can take to ensure they don't fall victim to the scam.
A post on the Lanarkshire Police Division Facebook page said: "Action Fraud reports that victims have lost more than £280,000 in just 2 months due to online scams involving non-existent pets, with the coronavirus crisis providing a perfect breeding ground for fraudsters to operate.
"So far, nearly 700 people have reported losing money, after putting down deposits for pets they had seen advertised on social media, general online selling websites and also specific pet selling platforms.
"The coronavirus social distancing restrictions mean potential buyers are unable to see the animal first, or pick it up.
"The fraudsters play on this anonymity and demand a deposit, followed by requests for more payments alleged to cover insurance, vaccinations and delivery of the pet.
"However, the con artists simply do not have these animals to sell.
"Action Fraud has received reports of the scam from people all over the UK, with a spike in April.
"If you're purchasing goods and services from a company or person you don't know and trust, carry out some research first, or ask friends and family for advice before completing a purchase. Remember, if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
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"Avoid paying for goods and services by bank transfer as that offers you little protection if you become a victim of fraud. Instead, use a credit card or a secure payment method.
"Ask for photographs or videos of the animal; a responsible seller will understand why the buyer wants photographs and more information before making a purchase.
"Use the online marketplace's 'report' function if you come across suspicious adverts or sellers.
"Sellers offering to meet you 'halfway' may seem generous but you should only buy an animal directly from the place where the pet was born and raised."
Any Scots who have been duped should contact Police Scotland on 101 to report the incident.