Last year (2022) Australians lost over 3.5 million dollars to online pet scams as three intersecting threads of pandemic culture resulted in the perfect storm: A huge increase in demand for pets; lock downs - which prevented people from meeting breeders in person and relying on a third party to deliver their pet; and more fraud. Add to that the fact that the price of pets skyrocketed and scammers were looking for new and better ways to cash in. They needed to fool even the most cautious puppy or kitten buyers - those who might look for and check credentials – so breeder identity theft also hit new heights.
What the scammers learned during this time won’t be unlearned, so whether you’re a pet buyer or a breeder, it’s important to know how you can protect yourself, your money, and your identity.
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What is Breeder Identity Theft?
Breeder identity theft occurs when a scammer uses a breeder’s details, information and/or photos to create fake online advertisements. They will: use photoshop to adjust a photo of a registration card; create an email address using the breeders prefix; provide the breeders phone number for verification purposes, and then elect not to display it; and even build a near exact copy of a legitimate breeders website and Facebook page. Photos, litter information, the breeders name and address, everything. Stolen, copied, and up on a new website - complete with an online payment portal. Scammers submit their ads to as many online platforms as they can, most of which are published without review.
'With over 10 million Aussie Pet lovers having visited Perfect Pets already, and 35,000 people using the site to connect every week, we have to be vigilant and use a combination of good old fashioned teamwork as well as the best and latest technology to keep up'
While the number and impact of pet scammers grew during covid, they’ve been at it for a long time. Our Perfect Pets online pet directory
has had a number of steps in place to screen out scammers since launching a decade ago. Fortunately, these processes stood up to COVID madness. While we list the full range of pet service providers
, including vets
, and rescue groups
which are all carefully reviewed, when it comes to breeders, there's additional checks and we've always worked closely with registering bodies to ensure that new account applications are carefully verified. This is critical to ensuring the site remains secure and safe from scam activity and is part of an ongoing effort because small changes in the online space can have a big impact, and fast. The list of registering councils and assocations we work with can be found here
Monitoring scam activity is critical and we've started to see scammers moving into other parts of the pet industry. In the last 6 months fundraising scams via fake veterinary websites have started to appear, as well as fake vaccination certificates. The Australian Veterinary Association have been made aware and are understandably alarmed. It’s important we are all vigilant and use a combination of good old fashioned teamwork and cooperation as well as the best and latest technology to keep up.
Responsible pet buyers
In the last 10 years Perfect Pets has put a lot of effort into trying to educate the general public about how important it is that they only deal with responsible, registered breeders
. It’s now evident that there’s another message that we all need to get out there Pet lovers need to become responsible buyers!
There are a number of reasons that pet scammers succeed:
- People looking for pets are often impulsive and impatient – they want their pet now, or yesterday, and will often buy a puppy from wherever they can find one.
- People use their heart not their head to make decisions when looking for pets. Oftentimes, just seeing a cute photo or video is enough for all the advice to go out the window.
- People are prepared to pay very high prices for pets - $10-$15,000 is not at all uncommon for puppy – and typically for cross-bred dogs where there’s been no health testing or other measures to ensure the well being of the puppy. Paying these prices just encourages greedy and unscrupulous people to get involved and cash in. Puppies listed on Perfect Pets average from $2 - $5000 and this is for a well bred, fully health tested pedigree puppy from fully registered ANKC (Dogs Australia) breeder.
- People aren’t taking advice and making sure that the ‘breeder’ they are talking to is a legitimate breeder, let alone registered and responsible.
If you’re looking for a pet and want to connect with registered breeders or other pet service providers via a platform that is secure – check out our Perfect Pets member directory
Breeders are also vulnerable beyond the online space as scammers may target them directly. One breeder was contacted by a prospective buyer who told her that she’d been scammed and felt she needed a photo of the breeders drivers licence and registration to proceed with purchasing a puppy. The unsuspecting breeder emailed the photos through, and before long her information had been used in countless scams where her name, business and photos were used to trick people. Apparently many of them actually turned up at the breeders house to collect their puppy only to be told they’d been scammed and should contact the police.
Our process at Perfect Pets is to let breeders know if accounts applications are submitted that are fraudulent and have used their details, and to date not a single scammer has had an account approved.
While we’re happy with that record, we do know that if scammers are submitting fake ads to us, they’re usually posting them on other online sites that don’t verify credentials. We always send breeders the details that have been provided and then they are in a position to take a number of steps that we outline for them.
Any breeders who’d like another avenue to connect with pet lovers that is secure, and exclusively fully registered and verified breeders can apply here to be included in the breeder directory. If after assistance, please contact us for detailed advice about how to protect credentials, and what to do if your details have been used by scammers.