Pandemic puppy scam

Online scams target prospective pet owners.

Queenslanders looking to adopt a furry friend during isolation have been warned to be on the lookout for scammers.

Scamwatch has seen a recent spike in puppy scams with April reports almost five times higher than the average.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said Australians had already lost more than $300,000 to pet scams this year.

“A lot of people are stuck at home and going online to buy a pet to help them get through the loneliness of social isolation,” Ms Rickard said.

“Unfortunately, the rush to get a new pet and the unusual circumstances of COVID-19 makes it harder to work out what’s real or a scam.”

Scammers have set up fake websites or ads on online classifieds and social media pretending to sell sought-after dog breeds and will take advantage of the fact that you can’t travel to meet the puppy.

Ms Rickard said the scammer would usually ask for up-front payments via money transfer to pay for the pet and transport it to you.

“Once you have paid the initial deposit, the scammer will find new ways to ask for more money, and scammers are now using the COVID-19 pandemic to claim higher transportation costs to get across closed interstate borders or additional fees for ‘coronavirus treatments’,” she said.

“Once you make the payments, the seller will cease all contact.”

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The most common scams reported were for cavoodles and French bulldogs.

“The safest option is to only buy or adopt a pet you can meet in person and if you cannot do that during the current lockdown restrictions consider putting the search on hold,” Ms Rickard said.

“Scam websites can look quite convincing, so try not to fall for the adorable puppy pictures they post, and remember, if the price looks too good to be true, it probably is.
“If you are in doubt, seek advice from a reputable breeders association, vet or local pet shop.”

Australians have lost more than $700,000 to more than 2000 reported coronavirus scams.

Animal Welfare League Queensland, RSPCA and other animal welfare organisations are offering virtual adoptions to ensure rescue pets find continue to find the right home during the coronavirus pandemic.