How fraudsters conned us with a puppy scam

 

Fraudsters have been out in force during the pandemic as the number of people left out of pocket has soared.

Latest Scamwatch figures show in September there were more than 27,200 reported scams and more than $15 million was lost.

This compares to September last year when there were more than 13,100 reported scams and $10.7 million lost.

Nancy Sandhu, 34, from Wollert in Melbourne's north, says during lockdown her children were keen to get a pet pooch after one of their budgies passed away and in desperation she fell victim to a fraudster.

"The kids really wanted a dog and they had been asking me and my husband for one for a long time," she says.

"We looked online given we couldn't go physically to view dogs due to the lockdown, so I found a chocolate brown puppy online in South Australia."

She says the seller convinced her the sale was legitimate and after she asked him to provide photos he said she must pay a $500 to secure the purchase.

"I looked at his Facebook profile and I could tell it was created very recently which concerned me," Sandhu says.

"He said he would provide the microchip information once I paid the deposit."

Nancy Sandhu, 34, husband Kirat, 34, and children Jessica, 10, and Josh, 8, fell victim to an online puppy scam. Picture: Jay Town.
Nancy Sandhu, 34, husband Kirat, 34, and children Jessica, 10, and Josh, 8, fell victim to an online puppy scam. Picture: Jay Town.

On transferring the money, it was minutes later that her bank Westpac sent her a message saying her account had been locked.

It turned out that Sandhu made a transfer to a suspicious account and luckily for her she didn't end up losing her funds, but she has been left unable to buy a dog for her children.

Westpac's head of fraud Ben Young says there's many "peer-to-peer payments" that are catching people out.

"People are probably more prepared than they were in the past to buy goods sight unseen because they can't or won't go and see the item," he says.

"Pay for or pick up the item in person if you can, if you can't then you really should be asked to be shown the item via video call if you can."

New Westpac data showed about 54 per cent of Australians are more concerned about being scammed than they were before the pandemic.

It also showed about 80 per cent of people have seen a noticeable increase in scam activity since the start of the pandemic.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's chair Delia Rickard says consumers should be on high alert if someone contacts them out of the blue.

"Do not give them personal information, do not give them money," she says.

"Remember scammers will always pretend to be trusted identities, whether it's a bank or a government department."

But Rickard warns for those making online purchases to use secure websites which have "a closed padlock on it".

"Use a more secure payment mechanism, whether it's a credit, PayPal, that will help to protect you," she says.

"Don't click on any links in texts or emails because more often than not they can download malware and it enables scammers to get personal information whether it's on your phone or computer."

sophie.elsworth@news.com.au

@sophieelsworth

 

AVOIDING FRAUDS/SCAMS

• Don't follow hyperlinks, always type in the link yourself.

• Never click on links sent in texts or emails.

• Resist pressure.

• Hang up, stop think for yourself.

• Don't rely on photos or a video already compiled.

• Use Google reverse image to see the photos are not old ones.

• Use live video calls to see the item to ensure it's legitimate.

• If you have been scammed contact your financial institution immediately.

• Pay with credit card if you can because you have better fraud protection.

• Report the scam at scamwatch.gov.au.

Originally published as How fraudsters conned us with a puppy scam



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