This week North Shore Police Command reported that a Roseville Chase woman lost more than $2300 to an online puppy scam. The woman recently attempted to purchase a British Bulldog pup via a website she later found to be a front for the scam. The woman made payment for the dog via bank transfer and soon after realised there was no puppy.
As of May 2020, Scamwatch Australia reported that Australians had lost more than $300,000 in the first few months of the year to puppy scams with April seeing loses five times higher than average with the likely increase being put down to a rush to get a companion during lockdown. This is almost five times higher than the average yearly loss, with losses on track to exceed the 2019 total of $360,000.
Scammers set up fake websites or ads on online classifieds and social media pretending to sell sought-after dog breeds and will take advantage of the fact that you can’t travel to meet the puppy in person.
The scammer will usually ask for up-front payments via money transfer to pay for the pet and transport it to you.
“Once you have paid the initial deposit, the scammer will find new ways to ask for more money, and scammers are now using the COVID-19 pandemic to claim higher transportation costs to get across closed interstate borders or additional fees for ‘coronavirus treatments’,” Ms Rickard said.
“Unfortunately once you make the payments, the seller will cease all contact.”
Cavoodles and French Bulldogs
The most common breeds reported were Cavoodles and French Bulldogs and most people contacted the scammers via an email address they found online.
“The safest option is to only buy or adopt a pet you can meet in person and if you cannot do that, consider putting the search on hold,” Ms Rickard said.
“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.”
“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, as you’re likely to be dealing with a scammer if you find matching images or text on multiple websites,” Ms Rickard said.
“If you are in doubt, seek advice from a reputable breeders association, vet or local pet shop.”
“If you think you have been scammed, contact your bank or financial institution as soon as possible,” Ms Rickard said.
Police are urging anyone thinking of purchasing a pet online to do some research to determine the legitimacy of the seller before parting with their hard-earned cash. A good source of information when deciding to buy a pet online can be to speak to a local vet or a reputable breeder’s association.
There has been an explosion of posts on ITC Lane Cove Chat asking for recommendations about where to access puppies. You can also use this mechanism to see if anyone has purchased a pet from someone you are thinking of using. Many members of ITC Lane Cove Chat also are members of rescue organisations, and they can give you details of these organisations.
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