The excitement of buying a puppy as a gift for Christmas has turned to disappointment for many consumers who have been scammed out of their money.
In recent cases, two Perth consumers reported losing $2,350 each after making payments via a fake website French Bulldog Rehoming. Consumer Protection is working towards having the website closed down.
Consumer Protection has received reports from 23 people who claim to have lost a total of $32,740 to pet scams so far this year. Many of these were via fake websites featuring cute photos of pets that appeared when consumers were conducting internet searches or when clicking on social media advertisements.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said it’s easy to be fooled as fake websites and social media pages can look very professional and authentic.
“When consumers make enquiries on the fake sites, they are asked to pay a substantial deposit or the full amount, usually via bank transfer, for the pet that doesn’t really exist. Then there are usually follow-up demands for extra payments for freight, insurance and quarantine clearances,” Mr Hillyard said.
“Apart from the financial commitment, the consumer has already developed an emotional attachment to the purchase which can be exploited by the scammers to extract more money from their victims.
“Although puppy scams are the most common, other pet lovers are targeted. Recently a consumer lost $1,400 after purchasing two Macaws online and became suspicious when they were asked to pay an additional $4,000 for freight.
“Consumers need to check the credentials of the business they are buying from and be extra vigilant when searching on the internet or dealing with sellers on social media. Check whether the sellers have a legitimate physical address, a landline and an Australian Business Number (ABN), plus look for online reviews.
“Don’t take any chances. Consider only dealing with local sellers and dog breeders where you can meet the seller and personally verify that the puppy is real.
“If you pay using credit card or via PayPal, there is a good chance you’ll get your money back if the seller turns out to be a scammer, so be suspicious if the online business demands a money transfer.”