Commissioner's Blog: Give pet scams paws for thought
Cute photos of puppies and kittens have been used by scammers for years to dupe prospective pet buyers out of their hard-earned money and it’s only getting worse.
In Western Australia last year, our WA ScamNet team received 114 reports of pet scams, with 75 victims losing more than $216,000 – a three-fold increase on both the losses and victim numbers reported five years earlier in 2017.
Most pet scams begin with online searches for animal breeders, or advertisements that appear on online marketplaces and social media, with images or videos often stolen from legitimate websites.
Although the ad may suggest the seller is in Perth, when contacted they will say they are outside WA or located remotely and the animal needs to be transported. This tactic is used to get you to pay more money for fake shipping fees, airfares or travel insurance.
The biggest red-flag that you’re dealing with a scammer is the method of payment, with money sent via bank transfer unlikely to be recovered. Don’t be fooled by Australian bank account details either, as scammers are known to use money mules to look more legitimate.
For this reason, we recommend only paying via credit card or a secure payment platform like PayPal as there’s potential to get your money back if the animal never turns up.
Other warning signs are limited contact, no address details on the website and false claims of being a registered breeder that can easily be verified.
With so many downsides to buying a pet online, it is generally safer for consumers to shop locally so they can personally inspect the animal and meet its owner. Consider going through legitimate breeding organisations such as Dogs West or the Cat Owners Association to verify breeder information and registered contact details, or give serious thought to adopting through a shelter or rescue centre.
Prospective pet owners can check the new consumer’s guide to buying a pet on our website for handy tips on how to identify genuine sellers.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection