Puppy price surge prompts scammers to take aim at Kiwi pet-seekers eager for a bargain

Netsafe is warning Kiwis to be aware of puppy scams circulating online, saying they are a "regular" occurrence.

The COVID-19 lockdown caused a huge surge in puppy prices with purebreds going for around $3000 and cross breeds, such as labradoodles, at least double that.

But some websites such as nzbuyandsell.co.nz, which allow members of the public to post listings, are advertising purebred puppies for a fraction of the price.

One woman told Newshub she was "automatically suspicious" of some of the listings.

"I noticed that a lot of the photos look fake, photoshopped, glorified backgrounds, big bows and even noticing buildings and plants that don't even exist in New Zealand." 

Curiosity piqued so she emailed one of the sellers asking if he had any Maltese puppies for sale - in addition to the French and English bulldogs already advertised.

"He responded within minutes and sent dozens of photos of Maltese puppies."

She says all the animals were advertised as being nine weeks - adoptable - and ready now.

"He said I could have one, or even siblings for $1000."

However when she asked if she could see the animals in person before sending him $1000, the seller never responded.

A Netsafe spokesperson says asking for payment up front is a classic scammers technique.

"Some of the reports we have seen show that scammers will first ask for the listed price of the pet to be sent to secure the purchase. If the buyer agrees to this, the scammer will then ask for additional payment.

"This is normally under the guise of secure animal transport, insurance, medical clearance and treatment. Once these payments have been received the scammers will stop all contact and the customer will be left with nothing."

A quick scan of nzbuyandsell revealed multiple suspicious listings - supposedly purebred puppies being sold for as little as $1000. 

Some sellers had listings for as many as eight different types of "purebred" puppies and other animals, all reportedly being sold from different regions of the country.

Newshub has contacted nzbuyandsell for comment. 

Screenshots of some suspicious-looking listings
Screenshots of some suspicious-looking listings Photo credit: nzbuyandsell

This kind of scam is not uncommon with Netsafe saying in 2020 alone it received 150 reports of puppy scams.

"These scammers often publish the same advertisements on selling platforms local to many different location. Due to the unique circumstances of a pet sale scenario, these scams are posted online repeatedly. These scams will be present on one platform or another throughout the year."  

Netsafe says there are ways to tell if a deal you're engaging in is illegitimate.

"If the seller doesn't provide local contact information, such as a New Zealand phone number or address to visit the pet in person, or avoids phone conversations it could be a scam".

The overall advice from the experts is if it seems too good to be true - it probably is. A police spokesperson told Newshub it's generally unwise to trust someone over the phone or online, and that if you are talking to someone on either of these platforms, it's a good idea to ask them for their credentials.

Never give out any of your personal information such as your passwords or bank account.

"Look after your personal details in the same way you would your wallet and other possessions," they said.