Commissioner's Blog: Pet sale scams

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With Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard

Puppy scammers have been getting their claws into the money of pet-buyers in Western Australia for years. The scammers also use kittens, birds and other popular animals as bait. Sadly the animal never arrives and Consumer Protection has received reports of monetary loss from many heartbroken would-be pet owners.

Advertisements can be 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 breeding business;
  • online classifieds, such as Gumtree; or
  • auction sales sites like eBay.

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

Consumer Protection has a guide to buying a pet that is available on our website that will not only help with avoiding being scammed but also with tips for legitimate purchases.

The RSPCA also has a guide including a checklist for buyers and suggests purchasing from local animal shelters.

It’s always risky buying things from strangers when you cannot physically see and inspect the item and take it away after payment.

Take a step back from any online transaction, speak to someone you trust about it and do some double-checking in regard to the identity or business you are dealing with.

Resist pressure to act now. If you have any doubts, don't go ahead with the deal.

Tips for pet buyers:

  • Before paying see the animal for yourself and if possible its parents too, have it vet-checked and review any papers.
  • If you cannot meet the seller, at the very least see the animal via webcam not just still pictures, which could be stolen.
  • Be warned- private sales are unlikely to be covered by consumer law.
  • Consider using a registered local breeder – you can search via the Canine Association of Western Australia Dogs West website Deal with businesses with a physical address, a landline number and an ABN. Check online reviews of the breeder.
  • If paying and not taking the pet away in person at the time of payment, consider using PayPal which has a dispute resolution service if you do not get what you paid for. 

How online pet sale scams work

  • Photos supplied may be stolen from social media, meaning they could be images of a pet that already has an owner or one that is no longer alive.
  • The email addresses are usually from free account providers and messages are often in poor English if the scammer is overseas-based but beware that 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 advertisement may appear as if the seller is in Perth but once contacted they will say they are outside WA and the animal needs to be transported. This gives them a reason 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 as the scammer may have a money mule accepting the money.
  • If you do pay, generally shipping will be delayed for a reason which requires a further payment.

If you have doubts about an online transaction, call WA ScamNet on 1300 30 40 54 before the scammers get their paws on your money. 

Consumer Protection
Department News
23 Feb 2017

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