Pet lovers are being warned to watch our for wolves dressed in sheep's clothing as scammers prey on potential animal owners.
In 2022, Scamwatch received 1684 reports of pet scams with losses of $2.3 million, according to ACCC data.
Companion Animal Network Australia (Australia CAN or CANA) is bringing the issue to light during Scams Awareness Week 2023 (27 Nov - 1 Dec).
Chief executive Trish Ennis said in some cases, people have had to surrender their pet to a shelter.
The network has partnered with Puppy Scam Awareness Australia (PSAA) to help animal lovers identify imposter rescue organisations and breeders, and to avoid pet scams that continue to cause heartbreak and anger.
Since 2021, the latter organisation has received reports relating to more than 1500 Australian fraudulent bank accounts, 6000 websites and 8000 social media pages, groups and profiles.
PSAA founder Sandy Trujillo said while pet scams have slowed since the pandemic, they are still receiving about three reports per week.
PSAA has launched a Pet Transport and Breeders Directory to help validate and help protect businesses from scammers stealing their intellectual property. PSAA also works with breeders whose IDs get stolen to restore their reputation.
"Most breeders are now dubious of strangers coming over and stealing their pups," Ms Trujillo said.
"It's not always possible to find a breeder in your state, too, so people are choosing to buy interstate. That's how most get caught in scams."
What can I do?
Australian CAN has listed a number of measures to prevent you from being scammed.
- Only adopt a pet or pet you can meet in person. Scam websites can look quite convincing - try not to fall for the adorable puppy pictures they post.
- Do a reverse image search and Google the exact wording used in the advert - do the exact same pictures or words appear on multiple websites?
- Once you pay the deposit, a scammer will find new ways to ask for more money, such as claiming higher transportation costs to get across interstate borders. Unfortunately, once you make the payments, the seller will cease all contact.
- For a guaranteed real pet to welcome into your family, contact a CANA member in your state.
For tips to avoid fake websites and a list of fraudulent websites: www.puppyscamawarenessaustralia.com.au
If you think you are scammed, contact your financial institution right away. For more information, www.scamwatch.gov.au