She knew something was wrong when she saw the dog’s eyes. Then other scammers came along trying to rip off their thousands.
An NSW woman warns budding pet owners what to look out for after falling for a puppy scam and losing nearly another $ 2,500 to the “seedy b * stards” who run a second scam.
Brigid Kennedy of the NSW Southern Highlands was betrayed a few years ago after buying a dog on the Gumtree online marketplace.
Despite paying for a purebred border collie, upon receiving the puppy, she found that she had been fooled. He had mismatched eyes and did not behave like a normal farm dog on their farm, which suggested it was a mixed breed.
She had to move the dog last year because he became aggressive with children and was looking for a new puppy to fill the void in her and her husband’s life.
In May she was looking for a new puppy and found a breeder, but they only communicated through texts that felt “seedy” and “impersonal”.
The “breeder” asked for US $ 2,500 upfront before Ms. Kennedy could receive the dog. Against the backdrop of the Covid-19 bans, she couldn’t even visit the breeder’s place.
“I didn’t know where to turn, it was really hard,” she told news.com.au. “How can you be sure of the consideration if you want the money before you send the dog?”
Ms. Kennedy pulled the pin for the purchase believing she narrowly missed a scam.
Ms. Kennedy’s near miss comes as pet demand has increased in the past 18 months following lockdowns and border closings that have left some people unable to see friends and family as much as they used to.
So far this year, on September 30th, there were 2544 Reports of pet fraud with total losses exceeding $ 3 million.
This contrasts with 2,252 reports from last year with financial losses of $ 2.2 million and then only 498 complaints in 2019.
The most commonly attacked dog breeds are cavoodles and French bulldogs.
Delia Rickard, vice chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission who heads Scamwatch, said puppy scammers thrived in the era of Covid-19.
“A lot of people are stuck at home buying pets online to help them overcome the loneliness of social isolation.” she said beforehand.
“Unfortunately, the rush to get a new pet and the unusual circumstances of Covid-19 make it harder to find out what is real or what is a scam.
“Once you’ve made the initial deposit, the scammer will find new ways to ask for more money, and scammers are now taking advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to get higher transportation costs for crossing closed interstate borders or additional fees for ‘coronavirus treatments’ to assert. J.
“Unfortunately, the seller will stop all contact after receipt of payment.”
Just in time for her husband’s birthday in July, Ms. Kennedy found the perfect puppy thanks to a new Australian startup called PETspot that aimed to legitimize the pet industry.
Ms. Kennedy was able to find a safe breeder through PETspot, a start-up of three students from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) that enables safe pet transactions through their platform.
PETspot works by independently verifying growers on the platform and then guaranteeing the buyer’s money once payment is made.
If the breeder is a fraud, PETspot will reimburse the customer for the amount.
They are confident enough to give this guarantee as they carry out rigorous checks and balances before a breeder is allowed to register on their website.
“There are just people out there taking advantage of this and it’s absolutely shocking,” said Ms. Kennedy.
“If technology can protect us from some of these seedy b * stars, then that’s great.
“I like the idea that everything will be safer and try these young people (at PETspot).”
She ended up buying a purebred border collie puppy through the platform for $ 1500 – $ 1000 less than the potential scammer wanted her to do.
Nick Figliano, the 23-year-old co-founder of PETspot, told news.com.au that he came up with the idea for the company after he too was nearly cheated out of thousands of dollars.
When he was 20 years old, Mr Figliano wanted to buy a dog for the family but instead came into contact with a scammer.
“Someone was online pretending to have this amazing breeder, (they) looked responsible,” he told news.com.au.
But he soon noticed “a few red flags”, such as unlisted registration numbers and the so-called breeder who demanded that he pay the full amount before he could even meet the puppy.
When he did a reverse image search, he found the exact same image on Google, suggesting the puppy didn’t exist.
“Fortunately, I found out before I sent any money. Lots of others aren’t that lucky, ”he said.
Realizing this was something consumers wanted, Mr Figliano teamed up with two of his colleagues, Joseph Commisso and Jeremy Lay. start their own business.
They were a heavenly match because “Joseph had the tech background, I had a business background, and Jeremy had a pet background (because) his first cousin was a veterinarian,” he added.
Although PETspot was launched before Covid-19, it has been launched in the past 18 months.
There are 200 authenticated breeders on the site and to date, $ 3 million worth of dogs and puppies have gone through the platform and found a home.
The average price of a dog purchase is $ 4,000, which means they have had more than 700 transactions.
PETspot is economically viable as there is a three to five percent fee charged when you buy the dog through PETspot Pay, which the company guarantees your money with.
If you don’t want to pay five percent more, you can still use the platform free of charge.
The money “goes through a middleman – PETspot – who gives you protection if something goes wrong,” said Mr Figliano.
“The reason we are so sure we will pay these costs is because you must pass our verification process to be listed on the website.”
They have put in place a strict code of ethics to screen dog breeders for facts, which includes proof of registration with regulators, showing puppy litter health tests, then a manual review that includes a virtual property inspection, an identity check.
“We developed Australia’s first pet-friendly payment system,” added Mr. Figliano.
“The industry is based on cash, there is no payment system that protects you from pet fraud” – until now.