Losses suffered by WA scam victims are mounting after they were conned into paying for puppies that don’t exist.
Fake advertisements are appearing on websites, online trading sites and social media platforms that feature cute photos and cheap prices, making them irresistible to puppy buyers.
So far this year 28 consumers have reported losing a total of $51,000. In 2017, 42 people reported losing a total of $88,000 to puppy scams. Individual losses are as high as $5,000.
When consumers respond to these bogus ads, they are told they need to pay for transport costs, crates, insurance, shipping fees, vaccinations, quarantine clearances or a variety of other charges that must be paid up front. In some cases, they are told the money will be refunded on delivery.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard says the scammers exploit the emotion of puppy buyers.
“The buyers fall in love with the images and believe the puppy is on its way, which leaves them vulnerable to pay whatever is demanded,” Mr Hillyard said.
“Consumers need to be vigilant when responding to ads posted online and not pay any money until they check out the seller and make sure the offer is genuine. Consumers should check whether the sellers have a legitimate physical address, a landline and an Australian Business Number (ABN), plus look for online reviews.
“If you can’t verify the puppy is real or physically meet the seller, then don’t take a chance on losing your money – consider only dealing with local sellers and dog breeders.
“If you pay using credit card or via PayPal, there is a good chance you’ll get your money back if the seller turns out to be a scammer. Payment via money transfer services in these circumstances, however, is risky as the money can’t be traced once collected.”
More information about puppy scams is available at www.scamnet.wa.gov.au, or call 1300 304 054 or email email@example.com. Consumer Protection’s guide to buying a pet is available at www.consumerprotection.wa.gov.au or see the RSPCA guide at www.rspcapuppyguide.com.au.
The RSPCA recommends that when looking for a puppy, consumers should first visit a reputable animal welfare or rescue organisation. These groups have many different types and breeds of puppies and dogs, with a variety of colours and personalities, all available for adoption and looking for a good home.
If consumers do want a particular type of dog, then they can find a registered breeder by searching the Canine Association of Western Australia site at www.dogswest.com.au.