How scammers swindled $150K out of wannabe pet owners

West Australians have lost nearly $150,000 to puppy scams this year — leaving victims “heartbroken.”

Sixty-two victims have lost $142,433 in 2021, though one victim has since recovered $3,600. In 2020, 101 victims lost $241,625.

Geraldton local Melissa Connor — who lost an eye-watering $14,000 attempting to buy a German Shepherd puppy in May – described the scams as “cruel” and “heartbreaking.”

“We were so excited. I found an advert on Facebook and found a puppy for $1500, including shipping and delivery,” she said.

“But I got emails from the delivery company asking for $2,500 for upgrading the crate, and $2,500 for insurance.

“The costs kept racking up.”

The worst part was telling my daughter – it was meant to be an 18th birthday present for her.

Days later, the scammer informed her the puppy had caught a virus on the way from Cairns to Perth – and asked for thousands more to cover vet fees.

Finally, Ms Connor rang Perth Airport to check when the puppy would arrive. They told her she had been scammed.

“The worst part was telling my daughter – it was meant to be an 18th birthday present for her,” she recalled.

“I told her, she went quiet, but I’d say she went into her room and just cried without no-one knowing.

“It’s not fair, especially not for people on a low-income. I would just say to scammers, know that what you’re doing hurts people, and don’t do it.”

Camera IconThe advertisment for the fake dog that cost Melissa Connor $14,000

Ms Connor wants another dog — but can only buy one once she has saved up the money she lost in the scam.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection Gary Newcombe warned West Australians to be vigilant to avoid swindlers.

“Scammers provide consumers with images and videos, usually stolen from other websites, as proof they have puppies for sale. Purchasers are then asked to make payment for the puppy, which usually includes shipping costs,” he said.

“In the end, no puppy is supplied and the payment is virtually impossible to trace.”

Would-be pet owners should meet sellers in person, Mr Newcombe said, or take steps to “verify their identities.”

“If in doubt, call us first before sending any money,” he said.

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