Beware online pet sale scams

This announcement is for: 

Whether it’s a dog, cat, bird or fish, buying a pet is generally an exciting purchase, but if you’re buying a pet online, beware of pet sale scams.

Scammers have been using animals to get their paws on pet-buyers’ money for years. We’ve received reports of monetary loss from many heartbroken victims of online pet sale scams who paid for animals that never arrived.

Scam advertisements for pets are often found in:

  • newspapers – usually with an email address for contact;
  • the Facebook marketplace – community Buy, Swap and Sell pages or fake pages with paid for ‘likes’ from non-genuine followers to make them appear to be a real business;
  • online classifieds, such as Gumtree; or
  • auction sales sites like eBay.

Scammers may even hijack people’s profiles on legitimate auction or sales sites and use the seller’s reputation to lull potential buyers into a false sense of security.

If you’re buying an animal online, see the animal for yourself before you pay. If possible, see its parents too. Have the animal vet-checked and review any papers. If you cannot meet the seller, at the very least, see the animal via webcam. Don’t just accept photographs – they could be stolen.

If you are paying before you collect the pet, consider using PayPal, which has a dispute resolution service if you do not get what you paid for.

Be aware that private sales are unlikely to be covered by consumer law. Consider using a registered local breeder. Visit the Canine Association of Western Australia Inc Dogs West website ( to find out more. 

Deal with businesses with a physical address, a landline number and an ABN.

It’s important to understand how online pet sale scams work and to know what to look out for.

Scammers will usually use email addresses from free account providers and messages are often in poor English if the scammer is overseas-based, but beware a well-written email can still be a scam.

Any phone number given will be for a mobile phone or Voice Over Internet Protocol.

The ad may appear as if the seller is in Perth but when contacted, they will say they are outside WA and the animal needs to be transported. This is to get you to pay for shipping fees, airfares or travel insurance.

Payment may be requested by wire transfer, however the use of an Australian bank account does not always legitimise the business. The scammer may have a money mule accepting the payment. If you do pay, generally shipping will be delayed for a reason that requires a further payment.

Prospective pet owners can check the consumer’s guide to buying a pet on our website for handy tips to help identify genuine sellers and avoid being scammed.

With so many downsides to buying a pet in this way you might like to consider going through legitimate breeding organisations such as Dogs West or the Cat Owners Association or to seriously think about the hundreds of rescue pets looking for a new home.

If you have doubts about an online transaction, call WA ScamNet on 1300 30 40 54.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard
Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard, by CP Media


Consumer Protection
Media release
14 Feb 2019

Last modified: