Australians have lost almost $300,000 to puppy scams this year as scammers take advantage of those seeking a furry companion during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A spokesperson for the RSPCA ACT said they were saddened to hear of the large number of puppy scams occurring at this time. They would like to encourage individuals and families looking to find a new pet to make informed decisions before deciding to adopt or purchase.
“When looking for a new pet to join your family, we encourage families to adopt don’t shop. First, visit our shelter or check other reputable rescue organisations for animals available for adoption,” the spokesperson said.
“If, in the first instance, you cannot find what you are looking for, keep checking – the right animal for you is likely to turn up soon. With time, if you can’t find the right dog or puppy for your family, the next step is to find a reputable, responsible and registered breeder who prioritises good animal welfare practices.”
According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Scamwatch has seen a recent spike in puppy scams. In April, reports were almost five times higher than the average, with losses on track to exceed the 2019 total of $360,000.
The most common breeds reported were Cavoodles and French Bulldogs and most people contacted the scammers via an email address they found online.
The ACCC warned that scammers are setting 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 people 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.
ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said “unfortunately once you make the payments, the seller will cease all contact”.
“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.”
The ACCC also warned that if the price looks too good to be true it probably is. They encouraged people to research the seller by running an internet search using the exact wording in the ad as well as a reverse image search for pictures of the specific puppy. You are likely to be dealing with a scammer if you find matching images or text on multiple websites.
So far this year (as at 18 May), Scamwatch has received over 2,000 reports about COVID-19 scams and reported losses are now more than $700,000.
Looking for a pet?
RSPCA ACT saw approximately 3,300 animals come into the Weston shelter last financial year. At present they have around 200 animals in care with three adult dogs currently available for adoption.
The remaining dogs in their care are waiting to be vaccinated, microchipped, de-sexed and medically checked before being made available for adoption.
All the shelter’s animals looking for forever homes can be found online at www.rspca-act.org.au/adopt-pet