“[Rescue organisations] will also face a lot of negative feedback from the public about charging adoption fees when we’re covering vet work and other expenses.”
Victims often respond to online advertisements through Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree, before being directed to a fake website and then paying for the pet via a bank transfer.
When the pet fails to arrive, victims are unable to contact the original seller and the courier company.
Johnson said she heard about people falling for these online scams constantly, including one of her organization’s own foster carers.
“She feels out thousands of dollars for a puppy which never arrived,” she said.
“Anyone, even people that are aware of what can happen, can easily be sucked in.”
Johnson believed it was mostly young and elderly people who fell for these scams.
“They’re more vulnerable, and they’re desperate to get smaller breeds because there are so few in rescue,” she said.
“Particularly elderly people, they’re very lonely, and they will go and pay the money thinking it’s a genuine advert when it’s not.”
Along with these online scams, the increased demand for pets has sent prices skyrocketing, with pet lovers forking out thousands to get their dream animal.
Dog owner Kellie Baker paid $2500 for her 6-month-old pure-bred border collie.
“Nowadays, that price is so cheap,” she said.
“Most [border collies] I’ve seen are at $4000-$4500.”
On top of that, Baker has had to pay thousands more for registration, food bills and vaccinations.
Baker said she had wanted a high-energy and active dog that would fit her lifestyle, no matter the cost.
Dogs’ Refuge Home chief executive Karen Rhodes said the demand for dogs was high, especially since the pandemic began.
“People realized even more just how special it is to have a dog’s company and unconditional love,” she said.
“Unfortunately, the public just sees a cheap puppy, and if you see the puppy dog eyes, it’s pretty hard to resist. I think they just get carried away.”
Rhodes said people came into the Dogs’ Refuge Home in Shenton Park wanting a puppy because they had lost thousands on a scam.
“It’s frustrating … the whole reason we’re there isn’t to supply cheap puppies, it’s to give these dogs, and these puppies, a second chance,” she said
“Wasting money on these scams is perpetuating the cycle, and almost encouraging others to do more of it.”
Tips for avoiding pet scams
- Consider purchasing a pet from a rescue shelter or a registered local breeder with a legitimate physical address, landline number and ABN.
- Verify the breeder information and ensure you are contacting them through their registered contact details.
- Do your research. Search for reviews or warnings about the business/seller from shoppers or consumer protection agencies.
- Meet the animal in real life before handing over any money.
- If paying online, use a credit card or PayPal (which have avenues to dispute the transaction) rather than a bank or wire transfer.
- For more information about buying a pet, see Consumer Protection’s buying a pet page.
For more tips to avoid fake websites and specific Australian puppy websites to avoid, check ScamNet here.
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