A puppy scam tried to sell these four West Highland Terriers being held to the chest of a woman

How to Spot a Puppy Scam in Australia and Buy Your Pet Safely


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“Puppies for sale”. Those three words can be hard to resist for someone looking to find an adorable puppy to join their family. But with online puppy scams on the rise and puppy breeding season in play, doing your background research is vital. Unfortunately, dog scams are rife these days – you don’t want to lose your hard earned money!

Only once your due diligence is completed you can buy a puppy with confidence. And that’s what we’re here to help with through this article, which covers the below.

Wondering how best to find a new puppy to join your family? Be sure you’ve factored in the hidden costs first, by reading about the real price of new pets. And consider the pros and cons of purebred dogs before you go straight to Google in search of a pedigreed Labrador Retriever, for example.

Now, without further ado… here’s how you recognise and avoid dog scams, puppy scams, alllll the canine scams…

Once you’ve done background research on puppy scams, you can confidently buy a puppy like this cute black and white furball playing outside.

The rise of puppy scams in Australia

Unfortunately, online opportunists lurk among the happy snaps of smiling families playing outside with roly-poly puppies. The rise in demand for puppies has provided increased prospecting potential for these puppy scammers. Join any dog enthusiast Facebook group and you’ll soon see a conversation about it.

While not limited to specific breeds, puppy scams often target small, popular and expensive breeds like French Bulldogs and Schnauzers. Both breeds consistently appear on lists of the most popular dog breeds, according to the Australian National Kennel Council.

Aussie social media groups centred around popular breeds are regularly removing posts from suspected puppy scammers trying to sell non-existent animals.

Puppy scams cost Australians $1.3m in 2022.

ABC News (Australia)

How to spot puppy scams

While tactics across puppy scams can vary, there are patterns with how scammers operate. The following may be signs you’re dealing with one when you’re researching puppies for sale.

Pets are sold on Facebook and classified sites

These are two of the preferred platforms used by dog scam artists, but some do go to the trouble of creating bogus websites.

Free pet – you just pay “freight”

There’ll be some reason why the freebie offerer can’t keep the ‘beloved’ pet… Family hardship, death of the pet’s owner, relocation, etc. All you have to pay is the airline transport fee for the dog to be delivered to you. Don’t be fooled.

Free email account

They’ll use a free email service provider like Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc. Legitimate breeders are more likely to use email addresses pertaining to their website, e.g., [email protected]. Puppy scams very likely won’t.

You can’t pick the puppy up in person

Initially, scammers offer the pet in a location close to you, which is how they get your attention in the first place. But then there’ll be some reason why they’ve relocated far away, where you can’t visit or collect the animal in person. They tell you they’ll have to send the pet via animal courier. Dog scam alert!

While puppy scam tactics can vary, there are patterns with how scammers operate, as shows these Scrabble letters reading 'scam alert'

Untraceable payment methods

Scammers often want payment via Western Union or a similarly untraceable service. They might tell you to lie to the Western Union representative, saying you’re transferring money to family rather than buying something.

Inconsistencies in language, dates, names etc.

Generally, liars need good memories to cover their tracks completely. To spot puppy scams look for inconsistencies in your correspondence: from the company name, to dates, details about the puppy, details about the pup’s parents, and so on.

Spelling and grammatical errors

If their correspondence is full of errors, that’s a red flag for a ripe dog scam. Legitimate breeders take the time to create a professional impression.

Unable to be contacted on the phone

Don’t buy a puppy from anyone who won’t take the time to answer your questions in detail over the phone. Besides, if they’re only available via email or text, that’s not a good sign.  

More money needed

Once you’ve made the initial payment, there may be some reason why you need to pay more. The animal needs a specific crate, they need insurance, a health inspection etc. This is a common tactic of online puppy scammers.

Think about whether everything the “seller” is saying makes sense and can’t have holes poked in it. Listen to your gut too. And remember, whatever puppy you choose, you want to buy responsibly and ethically. So, check out our article on avoiding puppy mills and finding an ethical dog breeder too.

After avoiding puppy scams, make sure your dog, like this adorable furball with big puppy dog eyes, is protected with quality pet insurance.

How to report puppy scams

Founded in 2020, Puppy Scam Awareness Australia (PSAA) has committed to helping victims of dog scams. It has reported bank accounts and other essential information to financial agencies as well as local and international law enforcement, and it continues to do so. 

If you’ve identified any puppy scams, complete the PSAA Scam Reporting form here to stop scammers in their tracks.

Protect your puppy with quality dog insurance

So, you’ve avoided puppy scams and found the right breeder (pssst, we can also help if wondering how to tell if a dog is purebred). Fantastic. Now it’s time to read our tips on how to buy a puppy plus our dog adoption checklist to help you be the best pet parent possible. 

Then, you can happily bring home your stupidly adorable fur baby. Congratulations 🐾❤️

The next step is to make sure you protect them with quality pet insurance. PD Insurance offers affordable plans that will suit your new animal’s health needs. You might even find our third-party liability coverage a plus. Get started by checking out our dog insurance, and you’ll find our pawsome offering includes one or more months free if you buy online. Plus, no lock-in contracts…

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