Puppy scams on the rise

Updated: Sep 6, 2020

Would you like to adopt this beautiful puppy?

His cute face has you half roped in already doesn’t it?

He’ll be desexed, vaccinated and delivered to your door.

Or, at least, that’s what you’ll be told.

In reality this picture is as close as you’ll ever get to this dog.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has revealed that Australians have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars so far this year to puppy scams.

And quite often the scam follows the same pattern. The fraudster, posing as a breeder, draws the buyer in using a fancy and professional looking website loaded with cute photos and stories, and promises delivery with all the vaccinations and desexing taken care of.

But there’s a catch. Because of the whole COVID-19 thing, you can’t come and meet your pup first. Oh, and delivery will cost a bit extra too.

Unfortunately, for many people those cute photos were as close as they got to their new puppy.

As soon as the money is paid – anything from hundreds to thousands of dollars – the fraudster breaks off all contact and, for all intents and purposes, disappears.

The ACCC has received more than 1000 reports of puppy scams in the first 6 months of 2020, with losses reaching almost $1 million.

So how do you stop yourself getting scammed?

It’s not as easy as you may think. Many of the websites they use to lure in their victims look very professional. It’s not easy to tell the legitimate from the dodgy from the look of the website alone.

Delia Rickard, Deputy Chair of the ACCC, has a few tips to make it harder for you to be scammed.

“The safest option is to only buy or adopt a pet you can meet in person, and if you cannot do that during the current lockdown restrictions, consider putting the search on hold,” says Ms Rickard.

“Research the seller by running an internet search using the exact wording in the ad and do a reverse image search for pictures of the specific puppy, and if you find matching images or text on multiple websites, you’re likely to be dealing with a scammer”.

“Scam websites can look quite convincing, so try not to fall for the adorable puppy pictures they post, and remember, if the price looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

It pays to look out for

  • Websites that do not list a full physical address, telephone number or ABN, or if these details cannot be verified.

  • Insecure payment methods such as direct bank transfer or wire transfer.

  • High up-front deposits of transport fees, paid prior to delivery

  • Not being able to see and meet your dog before the transaction takes place

If, when you are purchasing your new puppy, any of these signs, or worse, a combination of these signs appear, it is time to be wary.

It has become harder for South Australian based scammers since the new Dog and Cat Laws came into effect on July 1st 2018.

As part of the sweeping changes made to pet laws in SA with this overhaul, all SA based breeders who sell puppies – whether they be professional enterprises or simply people who wish to sell the unexpected litter they have suddenly found themselves with – must register as a breeder with Catsanddogsonline.com.au and be issued a breeder number.

If you are dealing with a South Australian based breeder you can always search the online database to see if they are correctly registered in South Australia.

The combination of more people wanting pets, travel restrictions and easy internet payments has created a massive opportunity for scammers and fraudsters. If you are on the look out for a new pet it pays to be wary.


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