Beware the non existent puppy scam, says Consumerwatch’s Wendy Knowler

Beware the non existent puppy scam, says Consumerwatch’s Wendy Knowler

If you’re still not sure about when you can demand a refund and when you can’t, listen up. 


How to spot a pet scam

The pet scam is by no means new, but a significant number of South Africans are still falling for it. 

If you type “husky breeder” or “maine coon kittens” into an internet search engine, you will inevitably land on the page of a fraudster. 

READ MORE: How to avoid being scammed during online shopping

The asking price may seem like a good deal, but given that it’s a pretend pup which a fraudster is dangling as a lure, it’s can turn out to be very expensive indeed.

Here’s how it works:  Fraudsters pose as puppy or kitten breeders online, spin the potential buyer a whole lot of syrupy stuff about their new furbabbies and how they should be cared for, give the banking details and payment is made. Then come the arrangements for the “pet” to be flown to the new owner - huge excitement - but then comes the snag: the unexpected demand from the “courier company” for a special crate in order to fly the animal to its “forever home”. It’s not cheap, but you will be refunded, the victims are told.

READ MORE: Uber and their new cancellation penalty

Often there’s also a demand for insurance. It’s same modus operandi as many other so-called advance fee scams - extracting more and more money out of the victim, who has the prize (what they have paid for) in mind.

But this version is particularly traumatic for the victims as they believe that their darling little puppy or kitten is sitting alone and stressed at an airport, and without the “rental” of that special crate, who knows what will happen to them?

Bridget H, who fell for the scam recently, posted on Facebook: “You get hooked on the adorable pictures and they bulls**t you. You buy it because you get emotional about the puppy. I consider myself fairly savvy, but not when it comes to apricot coloured poodle puppies, apparently. “


-The selling price for the pet is far below the normal rate for your chosen breed. The Kennel Union of Southern Africa (KUSA) invites people to contact them to find out the going rate for specific breed puppies. Call 021 423 9027 or email [email protected];

-The scammer insists on shipping and insists that you can’t collect the pet in person;

-The website and emails are littered with spelling and grammatical mistakes;

-They offer too many breeds of dogs and a seemingly endless supply, immediately available.

-When you engage via email, the font is unusually colourful or bold, and the language too syrupy, and they seem overly concerned about the puppies, eg “My greatest wish is to place them in a home where love and care will be theirs.  We look forward only to a caring home where they  can be spoil rotten.They will bring so much love and joy to your home or family as they love to run and play but what they love most is giving puppy kisses…”;

-They provide a very long list of wonderful sounding perks, such as: Microchip, a “Cadillac leash, collar, pedigree, registration papers (with non-South African organisations), sample pouch of food, toys and a puppy booklet.


-Copy and paste the wording from a sales site into a search engine. If you find matching images or text on multiple sites, you’re probably dealing with a scammer.
-Don’t be swayed by authentic-looking websites.
-Do a search for the company’s name on HelloPeter

Whatever you desired breed, there is a rescue organisation willing and able to provide you with it.  Now that’s something to Google!

Take a listen as Wendy Knowler shares the different scams that have taken place: 

Hey retailers! Perhaps it’s time to give your staff a refresher course on the CPA

We’ve had the Consumer Protection Act for more than 10 years, and STILL consumers are being denied their right when it comes to returns, by retailers both big and small, urban and rural.

READ MORE: Beware! Scammers are using Capitec bank accounts as so-called business accounts

Jonathan C wrote to me recently about an experience he had at a Pick n Pay in Uitenhage.

“I bought a kettle n Pick n Pay on 29 May,” he said. “Yesterday I discovered the kettle is leaking.

“Today I returned the kettle. It was tested in store and they confirmed that the kettle leaked. 

“What I don't understand is, they offered me a replacement. I'm under the impression that it's my choice to refund or replace under CPA. 
“At first I didn't want a replacement seeing that I lost trust in the product. “I was informed that the store will replace the product up to 3 times before they will refund. After an argument I decided to accept the replacement only to find out they don't have stock of the said product. Only then did they offer a refund. I took a different brand and paid the difference. 

“So I got what I wanted, but for the sake of empowerment and knowledge, what is the correct procedure? Were they doing me a favour or was I within my rights to insist on a refund, under the circumstances?

READ MORE: Are you being charged unreasonably high prices for goods after the looting?


Section 56 allows the consumer to choose their remedy - refund, replacement or repair - if a product proves to be defective within six months of purchase, provided, of course, that  it can’t be proved that they caused the problem.

As I said to PnP, for the management of this store to insist that Jonathan  had to accept a replacement and that a refund was only an option after three failed replacements is quite a blatant denial of his CPA rights and clearly the concern is that other customers have been prejudiced by this stance.

Pick n Pay’s response:

"Our customer is absolutely right. He has the immediate choice to have the product replaced or repaired, or to receive a refund. We have contacted the store to make sure they follow the correct process in future. We apologise sincerely to Mr Cisciro for any inconvenience he had."

NOTE: The right to return a product within six months for a refund only applies if it’s DEFECTIVE.
If you buy something from a store you have no right to return it at all if you have a change of heart for some reason.

At the risk of confusing the issue, if you buy something online, you have a week’s “cooling off period” in which to return it, at your cost, for a full refund. That’s the one instance where you’re entitled to a refund even if the product is not defective.

Contact Wendy

Get in touch with Wendy via her website or her Facebook page. Please note that Wendy is not able to personally respond to every email she receives. If she is able to take up your case, she will contact you directly. Here are other avenues for you to consider.

Listen to more podcasts from Wendy Knowler in the Consumerwatch channel below: 

Main Image Courtesy: Pixabay

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