Scamwatch is warning people to watch out for scammers setting up fake ads pretending to sell adorable puppies.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said more than $310,000 had been lost to the scam and that there had been 584 reports about it in the past 12 months.
She said puppy scammers tend to play on people’s emotions, particularly those who have their heart set on a particular breed.
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“Once they see that cute puppy picture in an ad, they drop their guard and tend to miss the warning signs they’re dealing with a scammer,” Ms Rickard said.
“Scammers will advertise puppies they know are sought after, particularly pedigree breeds. Reports to Scamwatch show the majority of people have been contacted by scammers via email or online through classified sites and even social media.”
People in the 25–34 age group reported losing the most money to this puppy scam and women are three times more likely than men to get caught out by these scams, according to the statistics.
The ACCC says a key sign you may be dealing with a puppy scammer is in the stories they spin.
“For example, scammers will often claim that they have moved interstate or overseas and that you will need to pay for transport or medical costs before the puppy can be delivered.
“Another common lie involves the scammer claiming that the puppy is overseas and it can’t be delivered unless a payment is made due to customs or quarantine issues.”
Ms Rickard said there were some important tips people can follow to protect themselves from puppy scammers.
“Most important is that old saying: ‘If it seems too good to be true, it probably is’. Scammers will place ads selling pedigree pups at cheap prices. Don’t fall for it,” Ms Rickard said.
“Don’t believe the ad is legitimate just because you see it on reputable websites, social media or even your favourite newspapers.”
“It’s also worth doing an internet search using the exact wording in the ad. Scammers get lazy and use the same wording over and over again. People are good at sharing intel like this online to save others from getting caught,” Ms Rickard said.
People can report puppy scams to Scamwatch here.