The competition watchdog said in a statement its Scamwatch unit had seen a recent spike in puppy scams, with reports in April being five times higher than the average.
Last year, $360,000 was lost by those looking for puppies and the ACCC said that sum was very likely to be overtaken this year.
“A lot of people are stuck at home and going online to buy a pet to help them get through the loneliness of social isolation,” said ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard.
Scammers set up fake sites or offered sought-after dog breeds through online classified ads, the ACCC said, adding that upfront payments were generally sought, supposedly to pay for transporting and paying for the pet.
“Once you have paid the initial deposit, the scammer will find new ways to ask for more money, and scammers are now using the COVID-19 pandemic to claim higher transportation costs to get across closed interstate borders or additional fees for ‘coronavirus treatments’,” Rickard said.
“Unfortunately once you make the payments, the seller will cease all contact.”
The most common breeds reported were Cavoodles and French Bulldogs with most people contacting the scammers via an email address they found online.
Overall, the ACCC said it had received more than 2000 scam reports related to COVID-19 and the losses due to these were in the region of $700,000.