Companion Animal Network Australia shines the light on puppy scams that are breaking hearts

Leading animal welfare charity Companion Animal Network Australia (CANA) has partnered with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) during Scams Awareness Week (November 8 – 12) to raise awareness about puppy scams that cause a lot of heartbreak and anger, and unwittingly involve legitimate businesses in Australia.

Compared to 2019, ACCC ScamWatch recorded a fivefold increase for corrupt schemes to extort money out of consumers for dogs that did not exist, and the pandemic-promoted demand for animal companions is not helping.

This year’s ScamWatch theme is Let’s talk scams, to encourage all Australians to talk about scams to increase awareness, educate and empower consumers to protect themselves.

“During Scams Awareness Week 2021, we encourage pet lovers to talk about puppy scams and learn how to avoid the heartbreak, loss of money and in some cases, potentially having to surrender their pet to the shelter,” said Trish Ennis, National Executive of CANA.

“It can be difficult to know what is real or a scam. Knowing the scammers’ tricks can help you avoid the heartbreak of not getting the puppy you wanted.”

According to ACCC Scamwatch, Australians have lost nearly $300K to puppy scams last year alone, particularly those seeking a furry companion online during the loneliness of social isolation. In fact, Scamwatch reported a spike in puppy scams almost five times higher than the average!

“Online scammers also prey on desperate and distressed people during the COVID-19 pandemic housing squeeze, also targeting families with pets desperately searching for pet friendly housing,” said Ms Ennis.

CANA 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).

CANA celebrates the human-animal bond and promotes responsible pet ownership through national campaigns, partnerships, and initiatives, including the Rent with Pets program.

Tips to avoid puppy scams

Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you are looking to get a family pet:

  • Scammers set up fake websites or ads on online classifieds and social media pretending to sell sought-after dog breeds. Email is the only way to contact them.
  • Scammers take advantage of travel restrictions that prevent you from traveling to meet the puppy in person. They normally ask for up-front payments via money transfer to pay for the pet and transport it to you.
  • Once you pay the deposit, a scammer will find new ways to ask for more money, such as claiming higher transportation costs to get across interstate borders. Unfortunately, once you make the payments, the seller will cease all contact.
  • Scam websites can look quite convincing – try not to fall for the adorable puppy pictures they post. To avoid being scammed, only buy or adopt a pet you can meet in person.
  • If the price looks too good to be true, it probably is!
  • Research the seller online using the exact wording in the ad and do a reverse image search for pictures of the specific puppy to see if you can find matching images or text on multiple websites.
  • If you are in doubt, seek advice from a reputable dog breeders association, veterinarian, or local animal shelter.
  • For tips to avoid fake websites and a list of fraudulent websites, click here.
  • For a guaranteed ‘real pet’ to welcome into your family, contact a CANA member in your state here.
  • How about adopting a pet, check out PetRescue and search for an adoptable pet from a good rescue group or animal shelter.

If you think you are scammed, contact your financial institution right away. For more information, visit www.scamwatch.gov.au

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