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Urgent warning about Google Pay after reports of alarming spike in cruel new scam cases




Google has warned users about scammers using Google Pay to steal from Australian animal lovers after an alarming spike in cases.

People looking to buy pets are being urged to use vigilance when scouring the internet for a new addition to their family. Cute photos of puppies, kittens and cats are used by scammers to reel in would-be buyers.

Millions believe they are clicking on a real ad to buy a dog on a website, but once the financial transaction is complete, they never hear from the “puppy owners” again.

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For android users using Google Pay, once a transfer is complete, it is not possible for Google Pay to retrieve those funds, the tech giant confirmed, releasing its warning on the cruel cyber threat.

Google has released a warning to animal lovers amid a spike in puppy scams globally. File Image Credit: Getty Images/AP

“A scammer creates a fake advertisement for a puppy or another type of Pet,” Google warned.

“If you contact them, they may request that you send payment before they deliver the animal. Then, if you pay, you will never receive the puppy or pet.

“With Google Pay, you can send money to or receive money from family and friends you trust. Sometimes, bad actors might try to use Google Pay to steal money from you.

“Do not make purchases using money transfers. You could lose your money without ever getting what you paid for.”

Purebred pooches are being used as bait by puppy scammers pulling on the heartstrings of their victims, Google warns. File image. Credit: Getty

The scammers behind these cyber crimes often set up fake websites, advertisements, online classifieds and social media posts pretending to sell sought-after dog breeds, according to Companion Animal Network Australia (CAN).

“Scam websites can look quite convincing – try not to fall for the adorable puppy pictures they post. To avoid being scammed, only buy or adopt a pet you can meet in person,” CAN said.

Many of the pictures used in these scams have been ripped offline, so a reverse image search may highlight the legitimacy - or lack thereof - of the offer.

“Do a reverse text and image search for the pet being advertised. If the search returns a match on multiple websites, you’re likely dealing with a scam,” Victoria Police advise.

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The scammers can even go as far as stealing the identity of trusted canine professionals.

“I’m a legitimate business and scammers used my name, ABN and even superimposed my name on someone else’s Tasmanian driver’s license to show buyers as evidence,” Tasmanian dog groomer Lesley told CAN.

“I also discovered 36 bank accounts with my name linked to it. Some people have lost money. (The) saddest part is getting innocent people and tugging at their hearts for a puppy, and I am unknowingly part of that.”

One NSW father trying to buy a puppy for his family said he was left feeling “sick” after he was duped by a scammer impersonating a legitimate dog breeder.

“I was scammed $2,000 (trying to buy a puppy) and I feel sick. How they can do this to people, let alone my kids?” he told CAN.

I even checked and double-checked everything, including the breeder number which was legit, plus video calls and emails, and still got scammed. Money is money comes and goes, but what they did with my boys’ emotions is hard to forget!”

Sought-after designer dogs are being targeted, with purebred cavoodles and bulldogs just two of the breeds bearing the brunt.

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One French bulldog breeder also released a warning on Facebook, highlighting the prevalence of the scam.

She noted that not all the scams are advertising new puppies, but many are pretending to rehome the dogs urgently.

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The scam is not new, Australians lost nearly $300K to puppy scams in 2020, and the cruel trend was exacerbated over the pandemic with many people in lockdown looking for canine companionship and contactless payment options, ACCC Scamwatch reports.

A full list of fraudulent sites and information on these scams can be found at Puppy Scams Awareness Australia.