Scam artists pretending to sell "adorable" puppies online have ripped off Australians to the tune of $310,000 in the past year, according to Scamwatch, part of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
So-called puppy scammers post fake ads online to hook victims, who then pay for fake transport or medical costs in order to receive their (non-existent) pet, the ACCC says. In the last year, 584 reports have been lodged, with those aged between 25 and 34 most at risk of falling prey to the scams.
ACCC's deputy Chair Delia Rickard says scammers are well-aware that puppies pull on heart strings.
"Once they see that cute puppy picture in an ad, they drop their guard and tend to miss the warning signs they’re dealing with a scammer. Scammers will advertise puppies they know are sought after, particularly pedigree breeds."
"Reports to Scamwatch show the majority of people have been contacted by scammers via email or online through classified sites and even social media," Rickard adds.
According to the ACCC warning,
A key sign you may be dealing with a puppy scammer is in the stories they spin. For example, scammers will often claim that they have moved interstate or overseas and that you will need to pay for transport or medical costs before the puppy can be delivered.
Another common lie involves the scammer claiming that the puppy is overseas and it can’t be delivered unless a payment is made due to customs or quarantine issues.
"If you hear these tales from a ‘seller’, stop all communication with them. The puppy, sadly, isn’t real and if you make those payments, you’ll lose your money," says Rickard. "Most important is that old saying: ‘If it seems too good to be true, it probably is’. Scammers will place ads selling pedigree pups at cheap prices. Don’t fall for it.
"[And] don’t believe the ad is legitimate just because you see it on reputable websites, social media or even your favourite newspapers."
Here are some of the images scammers have used to fool the pup-hungry: