Warning follows increase in puppy scams
A significant increase in enquiries and reports being lodged about puppy scams has prompted Consumer Protection to issue a new warning for consumers to be extra vigilant when responding to advertisements on websites, trading sites and social media.
There was a 200 per cent increase in enquiries about puppy scams during September to November this year compared to the same period in 2016, while reports lodged with the department for the same period rose from two last year to 12 in 2017.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said the largest reported individual loss to a puppy scam during the September to November period was $22,500.
“We regularly issue alerts about these puppy scams but there has been a marked increase in reports during the past three months, so we are again encouraging consumers to do a few checks before responding to these advertisements or sending any money,” he said.
“The $22,500 reported loss related to a pomsky puppy, but we’ve also had scams reported about bulldogs, huskies and cavoodles.
“Regardless of the breed advertised, these scams all follow a similar path with consumers being asked to make an upfront payment for the puppy after being sent a photograph, and often then being told the puppy is on its way but more funds are required for shipping and insurance before the delivery can be made.
“These scams usually ask you to transfer the payment directly to a bank account or through a service like Western Union. In the end, no puppy is supplied and the payment is virtually impossible to trace.”
While WA ScamNet has been able to take steps to remove fake websites, Facebook pages and adverts after reports are received, prevention remained the best remedy.
Commissioner Hillyard said if consumers were unable to see the puppy and meet the seller, then they should take steps to verify the seller’s identity.
He encouraged consumers to seriously consider buying local and to do so through recognised and registered dog breeders.
“Many of the fake website and Facebook pages can look quite professional so we urge consumers to double-check any business they are dealing with, and if they have any doubts to call us first before they send any money,” he said.
“Consumers should check whether the sellers have a legitimate physical address, a landline and an Australian Business Number (ABN) plus look for online reviews.
“And if you are paying for a puppy and not taking it away in person at the time of payment, then consider using PayPal, which has a dispute resolution service that offers a refund if you do not get what you paid for. The same protections do not exist with money transfers.”
More information about puppy scams is available at www.scamnet.wa.gov.au, or call 1300 304 054 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Consumer Protection’s guide to buying a pet is available at www.consumerprotection.wa.gov.au or see the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) guide at www.rspcapuppyguide.com.au.
The RSPCA recommends that when looking for a puppy, consumers should first visit a reputable animal welfare or rescue organisation. These groups have many different types and breeds of puppies and dogs, with a variety of colours and personalities, all available for adoption and looking for a good home.
If consumers do want a particular type of dog, then they can find a registered breeder by searching the Canine Association of Western Australia site at www.dogswest.com.au.
Media Contact: Claudine Murphy, (08) 6552 9366 / 0423 846 397 / email@example.com
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