Dogs are a man's best friend, but for some people, purchasing a furry isolation companion online during the COVID-19 pandemic has left them friendless and out of pocket.
Australians have lost nearly $300,000 to puppy scams during the pandemic, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
The ACCC's Scamwatch has seen the number of puppy scams increase fivefold in April 2020, compared to the previous year.
"Loneliness was the most widely reported source of personal stress in Australia during April, and in April was when we saw this huge spike in puppy scams," ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard told AAP.
Ms Rickard said Cavoodles and French Bulldogs were the most common breeds reported in the scams.
Victorians were the most likely to fall for puppy scams losing around $115,000, followed by New South Wales losing around $98,000. South Australians were the least likely to fall for the puppy scams.
But it's not just Australians succumbing to puppy eyes. The UK, Canada, the US and South Africa have also seen an increase.
"It's quite an international scam that has been going for a long time. I guess there's something that just tugs on everyone's heartstrings when they see cute, adorable puppies."
The ACCC says scammers use legitimate-looking websites adorned pictures of puppies and online sale sites like Gumtree and Facebook with competitive prices compared to legitimate sellers to fool unsuspecting buyers.
Once a buyer pays for the puppy which doesn't actually exist, scammers would usually ask for more money using COVID-19 border restrictions or puppy treatments as excuses.
"They will keep finding reasons to ask for additional money until the person runs out of money or realises unfortunately that they're being scammed," Ms Rickard said.
Ms Rickard urges Australians to reverse image search pictures of the puppies and to put the exact words of the advertisement into a search engine before purchasing the pooch as that can sometimes show that it's a scam.
As of April, Scamwatch has received more than 2500 reports of scams relating to COVID-19 with people losing nearly $750,000. Australians have so far lost more than $53 million to all reported scams this year.
"It's only a small percentage of the scammers that are actually reported to us so you could multiply that many times either to get the true figure."
Ms Rickards advises Australians to be sceptical and cynical to avoid being scammed.
"Ask yourself if something's too good to be true and that might be an indication that it's a scam."