Pet scams are humiliating and costly to victims, many of whom have lost thousands of dollars. These scams exploit consumer desire for pets (especially breeds that are popular and in short supply). ScamWatch and police agencies around Australia have noted a surge in puppy scams since the beginning of COVID-19.
Puppy and kitten scams more often involve puppies than kittens, and operate with the scammer posing as a breeder, typically of rare or highly prized breeds, and then taking payment for pets that do not exist. Pets might be advertised at low prices and the potential buyer is subjected to escalating demands for more and more money, to cover alleged transport, veterinary or registration costs. Scammers are highly particular about contact methods, preferring modes like WhatsApp which uses end-to-end encryption for greater security and reduced traceability. Some victims have reported receiving messages from several different email addresses, as scammers attempt to avoid leaving a trail.
What you should beware of:
- Pets offered for sale or adoption may be unusual or luxury breeds or are banned in NSW; scammers posing as breeders may offer several different breeds for sale
- Initial prices are low, and customers are then billed for more ‘unforeseen’ costs
- There is no opportunity for the customer to meet or personally select the animal, and the scammer finds excuses to refuse requests for in-person or video-call meetings
- They insist on excessively private means of contact, such as WhatsApp, and payment to overseas bank accounts or similarly suspicious means; communication may come from multiple different phone numbers or email addresses
- Necessary business information such as an ABN, a breeder identification number, valid microchip number or a rehoming number is absent or falsified; ABNs may be connected to individuals
What you can do:
✅ Only adopt pets from an authorised rehoming organisation or from a registered breeder,
✅ Check the validity of microchip details, rehoming organisations, and Breeder Identification Number on the NSW Pet Registry
✅ Check the NSW Department of Primary Industries guidelines on buying a cat or dog.
✅ If someone you know is considering bringing a pet into their life, encourage them to adopt from a shelter or to do solid research on breeds and registered breeders; discuss pet scams (and puppy farms) with them, or give them a copy of this factsheet.
For more information on pet scams and online animal exploitation see Cat Protection Society’s factsheet Animals on the internet or visit their website www.catprotection.org.au For general advice on cat care and everything feline, call the Cat Protection Society of NSW on 02 9557 4818.