COVID-19 has made it easier for scammers to take advantage of Australians looking to buy a puppy according to the ACCC. Puppy scams in Australia are four times higher than they were in 2019, with the pandemic driving demand for a forever friend.

Australians lost $300,000 to puppy scams in 2020 due to the fact that COVID-19 restrictions did not allow them to go and see these puppies for themselves. This meant they were either left with an unhealthy animal, or an animal that didn’t exist.

Scammers tend to set up websites and social media pages advertising sought-after breeds of puppies that are usually more difficult to find. Along with this, scammers provide little to no information or proof of any DNA testing, if the dog has been desexed or not and if it has been microchipped. They also ask for up front payments and offer delivery to be arranged in order to demand a higher price.

“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’,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said

In March of this year, an Albury man was charged over an alleged $16,000 puppy scam. He was advertising Cavoodle, Toy Poodle, Dachshun and Corgi puppies which are very popular and sought after breeds. Once he received money from buyers, he would cut ties. He was charged with nine counts of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception.

Murray River Police District Crime Manager Detective Chief Inspector Mick Stoltenberg warned potential puppy buyers to be very cautious when buying online.

“We have seen a rise in online scams in recent times, with scammers taking advantage of the recent pandemic as victims are less likely to travel to see the item they wish to purchase in person,” Stoltenberg said.

“Always remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”