Puppy scams still rampant in NSW

Department of Customer Service

Puppy scams remain at alarming highs, with NSW Fair Trading on track to equal the number of complaints received in 2020 relating to the canine cons that shot to prevalence during COVID-19.

NSW Fair Trading Executive Director of Community Engagement Andrew Gavrielatos said puppy scam complaints doubled in 2020 as demand for puppies skyrocketed during COVID and scammers were able to use restrictions as an excuse to avoid meeting buyers in person.

However, despite most restrictions having eased in 2021, he said scam figures continue to trend the same as the year before and urged consumers not to let puppy love override sense.

“NSW Fair Trading more than doubled its annual complaints in 2020 and this year we have already received almost the same number of total complaints as we did in 2019,” Mr Gavrielatos said.

“Scammers work best in vulnerable situations so it’s important consumers are remaining level-headed when purchasing a puppy.

“What we’re seeing is scammers posting fake classified ads on websites, in the paper or on social media platforms and asking for thousands of dollars for a non-existent puppy.

“I don’t care what their reason is, if a seller cannot prove the puppy exists or makes excuses for why you cannot meet your puppy, that is a huge red flag.

“The safest option will always be to adopt a pet you can meet in person prior to paying any money, but if that’s off the table, it might be best to hold off.”

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has seen a similar trend in NSW this year, already receiving 163 reports about puppy scams with losses of $170,789, compared to 132 complaints for the entirety of 2019, totalling $102,383 in losses.

The good news is that while Fair Trading complaints are still up, ACCC figures are dramatically down from last year, with Scamwatch NSW recording 590 complaints totalling $568,470 in 2020.

For those who can’t wait to be a puppy parent, Mr Gavrielatos encourages conducting desktop research on the breeder and establishing the usual price of the puppy you’re interested in.

“Do your research on the puppy seller or breeder and establish their credentials through online pet communities and forums, and social media pages,” he said.

“If the price of the puppy is significantly higher or lower than the going rate, that’s a good indicator that something’s not right.

“If you’re ever in doubt, just don’t commit to the sale.”

Victims of fraud should contact Fair Trading, their financial institution, the Police and ACCC immediately to report the scam.

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