Scammers have taken $2.5 million from Australian residents desperate for a pet during the epidemic so far this year, according to reports to Scamwatch.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch has received 2131 reports of so-called pet scams thus far this year, compared with 2252 reports for the entire 2020
The ACCC Deputy Chair, Delia Rickard, said that there had been a “remarkable” increase in pet scams this year as increased demand has driven up the cost of dogs. Puppy frauds were prevalent, with cats and birds coming second.
“We usually see these puppy scams around Christmas, but they’re occurring at a higher rate this year,” Rickard said.
“Loneliness has been one of the most significant consequences of COVID, and I believe it’s due in part to people wanting a pet; you’re also at home, so you may train them and do all those other things that you need to do when you have a puppy.”
The amount of money at stake has increased dramatically. Total losses have increased from $357,510 in 2019 to $2.2 million in 2020 to more than $2.5 million in the first nine months of this year.
The typical operation, according to Ms. Rickard, involved the scammer posing as a breeder by establishing a professional-looking website and promoting on sites like Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree.
They usually just utilized email for communication.
They would begin emailing with demands for additional payments, such as claiming you need to pay more because of border closures or a specific COVID-safe case for transportation, once they had payment by bank transfer.
“They will simply keep coming up with new excuses to ask you for more money until the individual has exhausted the funds in their account.”
“It’s remarkable how much more weight people lose after the first payment because they’ve committed by this time, they’re in love with the pups, and they’ve already paid out money, so all they want to do now is get the dog to them.”
Puppies have gotten significantly more costly as a result of increased demand during the pandemic, with certain breeds that previously sold for $3000-$4000 now commanding twice that.
She also advised conducting a reverse image search with Google or TinEye, as scammers frequently steal existing photographs and ask for a video of a specific animal with a certain object, such as a yellow ball.
Even if you’re dealing with a real breeder, it’s vital to do your homework, including the prices for microchipping, vaccinations, and de-sexing.
“When you deal with the breeder, ask them to describe any adoption expenses, what health guarantees and paperwork the animal will have, and how long the waiting period is,” Rickard said.
“The scammers will want you to put the money in a bank account and usually ask for PayPal instead of Western Union. They’ll also be really pushy, saying that they’re worried you’ll find someone else before the border opens again; this is typical pet scamming behavior. Don’t fall into it.”
If you are buying a puppy online, read this first, how to spot a puppy scam.