How Xinja helps fight puppy scams

How Xinja helps fight puppy scams

We don’t deserve dogs. The most loyal of all pets, they’ve helped humanity since the dawn of time with protection and, most importantly, companionship – something a lot of us are craving whilst spending an excessive amount of time at home. The high demand for the perfect pup is driving prices up and this attracts scammers. This is how your bank is trying to prevent these scams and help the victims.

According to latest figures from the ABC, Australians have lost more than $1.3 million to puppy scams since the start of the year — almost four times more than the whole of 2019. Scamwatch has received 1,373 reports of puppy scams so far this year. August was the worst month with 291 reports, losses of almost $300,000, and thousands of gorgeous, fictitious puppies scampering everywhere.

Australians have lost more than $1.3 million to puppy scams in 2020

Easy blame

For a change, COVID isn’t entirely to blame for these figures. Social media, online classifieds, dodgy websites and the rise of (online) identity theft all play a role in this worrying trend. These scammers aren’t just bored housewives/husbands or digitally savvy students, they are often well organised fraud rings who run multiple scams across the country. They don’t just create fake ads for a poodle, they also set up fake websites, use stolen numbers and pictures and open bank accounts for the purpose, often with stolen IDs.

“Identifying fraud is about data analysis; it’s about detecting abnormal transaction behaviour and patterns.”

– Vanessa McNamara, Head of Operations

Fraud busters

At Xinja we work hard to prevent any kind of scam and we work closely and compassionately with victims, law enforcement and other banks to help find scammers and bring them to justice. If we get a tip off, we move fast; “the sooner we know, the better the outcome is going to be for you” says Vanessa McNamara, Head of Operations.

If someone calls us about a potential puppy scam, typically we:

  • Advise them to contact the police if they haven’t done so and the other bank (either receiving or making the payment)
  • We then work with the police and the other bank to investigate
  • If we discover in the process a Xinja account is being used for fraudulent purposes, we put a block on it

In all cases, regardless of whether the Xinja account was receiving or making a payment, we do our very best to get as much money back as possible. Beyond that, it’s a civil matter that has to go thru the courts (so the best thing, is of course, not to be scammed in the first place….)

But it’s not just about tip offs, but also prevention. Our technology and very clever fraud team make it their mission to stop people setting up bank accounts with stolen IDs and to identify and block any that are created. Vanessa explains: “Identifying fraud is about data analysis; it’s about detecting abnormal transaction behaviour and patterns.”

Stay safe out there

For Vanessa and the rest of the team it’s also about more than just data: “We speak to people who are understandably distressed. If you are trying to buy a puppy, please take extra care!” She has compiled a list of tips that can help you spot a scam:

  • The most obvious one: if something seems too good to be true, it usually is.
  • A less obvious but very handy tip: reverse image search in Google; this way you’ll find out if an image being used in the ad is of an existing Australian pup, or a hallmark card.
  • If you can, insist on meeting the puppy before purchase – this is also a great way to bond! Or if you can’t, request multiple images or poses with specific items or consider a video call
  • Don’t trust sellers that are trying to rush you and are pushing for a sale
  • Try to find out when a Facebook page was created and be wary of pages with very few followers
  • Find out when a website was registered, you can do this through lookup.icann.org – if it’s very recent, do more investigation

If you do find yourself in a situation where you are scammed or concerned about a scam, act quickly. It’s important that you contact the police as soon as possible and your banks as soon as possible after that. As always, we are here to help you if we can.

Useful links 

Xinja FAQ: How do I stop or cancel pending transactions? 
Xinja FAQ: Is it safe to make a payment by bank transfer? 
Xinja FAQ: How do I report unauthorised transactions on my account?

ID Care: AU and NZ National cyber support service 

ACCC: Scamwatch 

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