Lost Pet Scam

How much is that doggy…hey wait, that’s not my puppy!

Losing a pet is never easy, especially during the holidays when you just hope they’ll make it home by Christmas. Unfortunately, even the magical gift of finding puppies wasn’t able to dodge the heartless, grinch-like scammers of this holiday season.

Playing with the emotions of families or individuals who’ve lost their beloved pet, scammers have learned that these victims are easy targets since they will, most likely, do anything asked in return for their pet.

Pay-Me-First Scam
Most recently, an Oklahoma-based Humane Society was hit with an unidentified individual contacting pet owner’s of their lost pet. The scammer offered to return the pet under one condition, they pay $125.

Lou Hays, president of the HSCC, told CNHI News Oklahoma that the suspect claims to be an employee of the local organization. At least three times this month, he offered to sell dogs to residents he knew had either lost a dog or were seeking a new one.

The heartless “employee” finds his victims through social media sites and on the Humane Society’s website. He calls those who desperately want their pets back and lures them in, taking their money, leaving them pet-less, and never being heard from again.

Truck Driver Scam
Another rendition is a scammer who claims they’re a long-haul truck driver who happened to cross paths with one’s lost pet while on their route. This scammer also requests they send or wire money in return for their pet. Once the money is received they will then “send the pet back” with another truck driver headed their way.

Tandem Scam
Not dealing with one but two scammers, the first caller will contact a victim saying that they may have their pet. They don’t have the pet, but will fish for details by making small talk with the victim to get information about the missing pet. Once they have enough information about the pet, they apologize and let the victim know that they, unfortunately, do not have the right pet.

After hanging up with the victim, caller 1 relays the information to their co-conspirator, who then calls the victim after a short time, and claims they have their missing pet, supporting their find with the information from caller 1. As they reel their victim in, caller 2 sets up a time to collect their reward before they “return” the so-called missing pet.

Airline Ticket Scam
How did Fido get to California? Well, for these scammers, they’ll claim a lost dog is in any state but the one the pet is actually from. Requesting pet owners send money for a kennel and airline tickets, they “assure” the owners that they will ship the pet back safely.

In all of these cases, scammers are requesting money in advance before pets are returned. If you have a missing pet and receive the same request, know that this is a RED FLAG!

Take note, there is a similar scam attacking victims who are looking to buy pets online. Scammers will post fake ads on websites (i.e. Craisglist, Facebook) of pets that do not exist. They will offer the pets at a low price to lure in victims, and similarly, request money in advance before the pet is sent.

We know it’s difficult when a loved pet goes missing or you’re longing for that perfect pet, but don’t let your vulnerability get the best of you. Here are a few tips from the BBB that will help you from becoming a victim of the missing pet scam:

•When placing an ad, refrain from providing detailed information (i.e. unique marking or physical features), this allows scammers to easily verify a pet they may not have. Leave it to only essential information.
•If you receive a call from someone who’s out-of-state, ask for their number and let them know that you will call them back. Out-of-state scammers do not want to give out personal information.
•If someone claims to have your pet, ask them details about your pet that they would only know if the pet is with them. It is also a good idea to have them send a current picture of your pet to confirm that it is your pet.
•Never wire money, or use prepaid debit or gift cards, to pay anyone you may not know.

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