Facebook scammers capitalise on puppy love

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Consumer Protection is warning pet-buyers about a scam Facebook page called ‘Bulldog Puppies for sale in Australia’ as attempts are made to shut the page down.

The Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection, Gary Newcombe, says two consumers have reported losing money after trying to buy puppies through the page, prompting the alert.

“A Western Australian woman lost $2,500 when trying to buy a family pet from a kennel via the Facebook page ‘Bulldog Puppies for sale in Australia’. She ceased sending money when asked to pay an extra $2,000 for transport fees and insurance. There are at least two other similar cases outside WA where the buyers did not receive a puppy.

“An investigation by our Consumer Fraud Liaison Officers has found that the money was sent to a New South Wales-based bank account and then wire-transferred to Cameroon and Russia. The bank-account owner who has wire-transferred more than $25,000 in total is also believed to be a victim in the scenario.

“The name of an Australian victim of identity theft is being used to perpetrate this scam. Consumer Protection and WA Police Major Fraud Squad have ascertained that Gavin Bruce Stuart of Queensland is not involved in defrauding people despite his name and driver’s licence being used during communications between the puppy scammers and consumers.

“The scam page currently uses the email address bulldogpuppies_australia@yahoo.com.au. WA ScamNet has found that the page has falsified links to the Australian National Bulldog Club and fraudulently used a breeder’s certificate belonging to Old Mate Australian Bulldogs. Other names used in the scam include Bruce Knight and an identity theft victim Gwen Parkes.”

The Acting Commissioner says it is easy to create fake Facebook pages that appear legitimate but there are giveaway signs.

“The ‘Bulldog Puppies for sale in Australia’ Facebook page appears to have bought likes to generate a page following of more than 14,000. Typing ‘hometowns of people who like’ into the Facebook search function shows where the likes come from. If there are high numbers of likes in a particular overseas city it is likely the profiles are fake and begs the question why a page in Australia would have so many overseas likes.”

Tips for pet-buyers

  • Before paying any money you should 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, verify their identity and be aware that private sales are unlikely to be covered by consumer law. Double-check any business you are dealing with e.g. do they have a physical address, a landline and ABN (search www.asic.gov.au). Look for online reviews.
  • Consider using a registered local breeder – there is a search function on the Canine Association of Western Australia website: www.dogswest.com.au. For Eastern States breeders there are similar sites, such as www.dogsnsw.org.au and www.dogsvictoria.org.au.
  • 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.
  • Read Consumer Protection’s guide for pet-buyers at: www.commerce.wa.gov.au/consumer-protection/buying-pet The RSPCA has a guide too: www.rspcapuppyguide.com.au. Tips include considering adopting from a local animal welfare shelter.
  • Last but certainly not least, if you are paying for an animal and not taking it away in person at the time of payment, 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 bank or wire transfer.
Bulldog Puppies for sale in Australia, scam Facebook page.jpg
Bulldog Puppies for sale in Australia, scam Facebook page.jpg, by CP Media

Media contact (Consumer Protection)

Consumer Protection
Media release
21 Sep 2015

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