26 September 2023

Pet buyers warned to avoid being bitten

Start the conversation

Western Australia’s dog lovers have been warned that cute photos of puppies and kittens are increasingly being used by scammers to dupe potentially unready pet buyers.

Commissioner for Consumer, Trish Blake said that last year the Commission’s ScamNet team received 114 reports of pet scams, with 75 victims losing more than $216,000 — a three-fold increase on both the losses and victim numbers reported five years earlier in 2017.

“Most pet scams begin with online searches for animal breeders, or advertisements that appear on online marketplaces and social media, with images or videos often stolen from legitimate websites,” Ms Blake said.

“Although the advertisement may suggest the seller is in Perth, when contacted they will say they are outside WA or located remotely and the animal needs to be transported.”

She said this was the tactic used to get the victim to pay more money for fake shipping fees, airfares or travel insurance.

“The biggest red-flag that you’re dealing with a scammer is the method of payment, with money sent via bank transfer unlikely to be recovered. Don’t be fooled by Australian bank account details either, as scammers are known to use money mules to look more legitimate,” Ms Blake said.

“For this reason, we recommend only paying via credit card or a secure payment platform like PayPal as there’s potential to get your money back if the animal never turns up.”

Ms Blake said other warning signs were limited contact, no address details on the website and false claims of being a registered breeder that could easily be verified.

“With so many downsides to buying a pet online, it is generally safer for consumers to shop locally so they can personally inspect the animal and meet its owner,” the Commissioner said.

“Consider going through legitimate breeding organisations such as Dogs West or the Cat Owners Association to verify breeder information and registered contact details, or give serious thought to adopting through a shelter or rescue centre.”

Pet lovers thinking of buying a pet can access a new Consumer Protection guide at this PS News link.

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.