Many people turn to the Internet in search of their new furry, feathery or scaly companion. It’s an easy way to look through pictures and research breeds, with many families finding their beloved pet online.
If you are not careful, what should be a happy time for new pet owners can become very upsetting with scammers taking advantage of people seeking their newest family member–conning them out of hundreds of dollars.
A common pet scam starts with an adorable picture of an animal posted on trading websites or social media. Making the post more enticing, often the pet is being given away for free because the owner is moving away or unwell and unable to look after the animal.
The catch is the owner is located interstate, requiring the new owner to pay to transport the pet. While this is usually quite expensive, it’s easy to believe you are helping someone out and getting a bargain. Once the money is transferred the animal lover is out of pocket and the ‘pet owner’ ceases all contact.
These scams can be quite elaborate and convincing, with phony courier companies set up with fake emails and invoices to trick people.
There are ways to avoid these scams. Firstly, never send money to anyone who you don’t know, even if you’ve been talking to them online. Gumtree is intended to be for local, face to face trading, so make sure that you meet the owner and the animal, and inspect the housing and care before adopting.
In the last four months, more than 100 pet scams have been reported to the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (the ACORN) affecting people in all states and territories. The ACORN is a national police initiative that allows people to easily report cybercrime, such as online scams, fraud, identity theft and hacking. The ACORN also provides practical tips on how you can recognise and avoid common types of cybercrime. Reports that are made to the ACORN help police to identify trends and ultimately crack down on cybercrime.
Adopting a new pet is a huge responsibility, so if you are looking online—do your research. Visit the Gumtree Scam Security Centre for more tips on looking for a pet, and check out the RSPCA Smart Kitten and Cat Buyer’s Guide and the Smart Puppy and Dog Buyers’ Guide. We even have a whole pet advice section dedicated to keeping you on top of the best ways to keep your furry friends happy and healthy.
For more information and to report cybercrime visit www.acorn.gov.au
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