Puppy buying scams cost Aussies $300,000
Puppy scams have cost Australians almost $300,000 this year as conmen prey on those looking for a furry lockdown companion.
The nation's consumer watchdog said scammers are placing fake ads for popular dog breeds on social media and online classifieds, and are exploiting isolation restrictions to get quick cash before ceasing all contact with buyers.
Puppy scam reports in April were almost five times higher than average, with losses on track to exceed the 2019 total of $360,000, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
Data obtained by News Corp from the ACCC revealed the top most reported breeds were Cavoodle, French Bulldog, British Bulldog, Pomeranian, Toy Poodle and Golden Retriever.
The data also showed Victoria reported the highest number of puppy scams, with 108 complaints amounting to more than $114,000 in losses in the year to April 31.
Scammers dudded NSW residents out of almost $100,000, with the ACCC receiving 99 complaints across the same period.
Thirty-eight people in Queensland lost more than $37,000 to puppy buying scams, while nine reports were received from South Australians amounting to $1750.
The ACCC said cyber criminals were taking advantage of the fact buyers could not travel to meet the puppy in person, with scammers typically asking for upfront payments via money transfer to cover the pet and transportation costs.
Australians most often contacted scammers via email addresses they found online.
"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'," ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
"Unfortunately once you make the payments, the seller will cease all contact."
Ms Rickard said safest way to purchase or adopt a puppy was to do so in person, and added to consider delaying your search if lockdown orders prevented you from doing so.
"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," she said.
"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.
"If you are in doubt, seek advice from a reputable breeders association, vet or local pet shop."
Ms Rickard said Australians should contact their bank or financial institution as soon as possible if they thought they were a victim of a scam.
The ACCC's Scamwatch website has received more than 2000 reports this year about COVID-19 related scams, and losses have reached more than $700,000.
The consumer watchdog said it shared intelligence and worked with government and private organisations to disrupt scams.
You can report a scam to the ACCC by visiting the Scamwatch website.
Originally published as Puppy buying scams cost Aussies $300,000