Puppy scams have become an all too common occurrence since the pandemic as more people than ever have been seeking to bring a new puppy into their home.
When people act on emotion, they are easier to scam and that’s especially true for pet lovers who want a furry friend at a time that it has been harder than ever to find a reputable breeder with puppies available, and more backyard breeders and scammers in general taking advantage of desperate people and a higher than ever demand.
To help raise awareness of the issue of puppy scams, leading animal welfare charity Companion Animal Network Australia (Australia CAN), an organisation I am proud to be an Amabassador for, is calling for vigilance when buying or adopting a pet.
Australian CANA (formerly Animal Welfare League Australia) is also calling on banks to take action on puppy scams, following reports of widespread pet scam activity.
According to Trish Ennis, CEO of Australia CAN, banks can also do more to help protect the public as hundreds of bank accounts are reportedly being used for puppy scam-related activities.
Scamwatch is led by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and this year’s theme is How to spot a scam. Australia CAN has partnered again with the ACCC and Puppy Scam Awareness Australia (PSAA) to help animal lovers identify and avoid pet scams that continue to cause heartbreak and anger.
Puppy scam increases
According to the ACCC’s July 2022 Scamwatch report, pet scams increased in 2020 as a result of lockdowns, but despite restrictions easing, Scamwatch continued to see pet and puppy scam reports increase by 48% in 2021, receiving 3,332 pet scam reports with over $4 million in reported losses.
With scammers continually developing new ways to fool people, pet lovers need to increase their vigilance in checking for those little clues that can alert us that something is a scam. Scammers are professional crooks, and it can be difficult to distinguish between what is real or a scam.
How to spot a puppy scam
Pet lovers are being urged to learn how to spot a puppy scam and avoid the heartbreak, loss of money and in some cases, potentially having to surrender their pet to the shelter.
- The most common contact method reported was email, which also had the highest losses.
- The most common pets used in scams were puppies followed by kittens. Scamwatch also received reports about a wide range of animals including snakes, goats and ferrets.
- Pet scammers will generally advertise on fake websites, social media or classified sites.
- Scammers may also act as a rescue group.
- People won’t be able to see the pet and, after it’s paid for, victims will be asked for more money because of a range of issues involving transport, illness or need for vaccines. Scammers go to a lot of effort to convince people that the pet is being delivered.
Puppy Scam Awareness Australia (PSAA)
Puppy Scam Awareness Australia is a dedicated organisation that brings awareness about the thousands of pet scamming syndicates who prey on pet shoppers, help puppy shoppers spot a scammer and assist those that have been scammed.
PSAA works hard reporting and negating scams daily to actively protect Australians from scams, according to PSAA founder Sandy Trujillo. “We don’t just report scammers, we shut down their online presence immediately, and help victims try and get their money back.”
Social media puppy scams
PSAA have also partnered with Meta to collaborate on ideas of how to combat scams on social media. Since 2021, more than 600 Australian fraudulent bank accounts, 3,000 websites and over 5,000 social media pages/groups and profiles have been reported to PSAA.
PSAA has recently launched a Breeders and Pet Transport Directory to help validate and help protect businesses from scammers stealing their intellectual property. Having “the only directory who are getting ahead of the scamming problem,” PSAA also work with breeders whose IDs get stolen to restore their reputation.
“Most breeders are now dubious of strangers coming over and stealing their pups,” says Ms Trujillo. “This has also become a thing during Covid. Many choose to speak on the phone or do Facetime. It’s not always possible to find a breeder in your state too. Victorian laws are regulated so heavily that Victorian’s are choosing to buy interstate. That’s how most get caught in scams.”
For tips to avoid fake websites and a list of fraudulent websites www.puppyscamawarenessaustralia.com.au
For a guaranteed pet to welcome into your family, contact a Australia CAN member in your state https://australiacan.org.au/who-we-are/
If you think you are scammed, contact your financial institution right away. For more information www.scamwatch.gov.au
Australia CAN is a registered charity representing the companion animal welfare work of member organisations across the country, including Animal Welfare League QLD, Animal Welfare League SA, Lort Smith (VIC), Sydney Dogs and Cats Home, Dogs’ Homes of Tasmania and Saving Animals From Euthanasia Inc (WA).
Australia CAN celebrates the human-animal bond and promotes responsible pet ownership through national campaigns, partnerships and initiatives, including the ‘How to Spot a pet Scam‘, Rent with Pets and Pets in Aged Care programs.
Lara Shannon is a certified dog behaviourist and trainer, pet food nutrition specialist, Executive Producer and Host of Pooches at Play on Channel 10 and editor of Poochesatplay.com. Lara also runs her own dog training business in Melbourne’s Bayside area and is the Author of World of Dogs and Eat, Play, Love Your Dog