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Website launches to combat online puppy scams

There has been a worrying rise in fraudulent dog sales online, and as a result Sandy Trujillo has launched Puppy Scam Awareness Australia (PSAA).

PSAA is a website and Facebook page that helps owners find a reputable breeder, report scams, and provide support for victims of scams.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), there have been 2,544 reports of pet scams with losses over $300,000 this year, as of September 2021, compared to 498 complaints in 2019.

Sandra Trujillo, Founder of PSAA, believes the ACCC number could be far higher without the assistance of organisations such as PSAA.

“We shut down around 200 fraudulent websites a month. And that’s just the websites, there are other online marketplaces and Facebook pages we deal with.”

Trujillo started the website after she fell victim to a scam herself and wanted to prevent the same thing happening to others.

“I’m generally a rescue person. I’ve never really bought a dog from a breeder before in my life, so didn’t really know about associations. It’s my own ignorance. I went to the classifieds and got scammed.

“I just got really angry because COVID had just started, and everybody was losing their jobs. It was the most horrible time when it was all unclear and sort of scary. So based on that, it just made me angry that there are despicable people out there willing to rip people off like that, and not think twice and be able to sleep at night.”

The website assists people in choosing a breeder by listing both known scammers and a list of reputable breeders. Potential owners can also find a puppy buyers guide and victim support information on the steps to take if you find yourself a victim of a scam.

Trujillo said the most important thing to do is to report the scam, despite many of the scammers being based overseas.

“I was discouraged by police to put a report through because their attitude was that they’re based overseas and there’s not much we can do. And at the time, I agreed, but the more I’ve dug into this, I’ve realised they’re not overseas. That’s the wrong way to assume things.

“This is why I say to my victims. When you go to local police do not let them turn your way. You must fill out a Fraud Report form. If you fill out the form, they must give you an ‘E’ number. And if you have and ‘E’ number, they must investigate.”

While most of the scammers are based overseas, there is often a local element at play, whether that be a local bank account or Australian based connection. Once the local aspect is identified, the ACCC, police, and Australian Financial Crime Exchange (AFCX) can begin shutting down the fraudulent bank accounts.