When a family pet goes missing, pet owners often take to social media sites like facebook and Nextdoor to spread the word, sharing photos of the pet and contact information. While the goal is to locate the pet as quickly as possible, be aware that some very dishonest people browse through social media posts looking for pet owners who desperately want their pet returned home safely.
“These scammers will contact pet owners, usually by text, claiming to have the pet and demand that money or a gift card be sent to them before they return your dog or cat,” said CSLEA Foundation Chair Kenny Ehrman. “They know what you pet looks like, because, you’ve likely posted a picture and they know the area in which you live because you posted where the pet was last seen. Be very suspicious of someone who doesn’t bring your pet to you first, or allow you to come retrieve your pet.”
How do you avoid falling victim to this type of scam? Follow these tips from the Better Business Bureau:
- Limit the information in your social posts: If you post on Facebook or other social media, omit information about unique physical attributes. This can help you verify if someone really found your pet.
- Watch for spoofed numbers: If you get a call from someone claiming to have your pet, ask them for a phone number where you can call them back. Scammers often spoof phone numbers, so they appear to be calling from somewhere else.
- Ask for a photo: If a caller claims to have your pet in their possession, ask them to send a current picture. If the "finder" gets defensive or makes a lot of excuses, it's a red flag.
- Never wire money or use a prepaid debit card to pay anyone you don't know. This is the same as sending cash.
- Microchip and/or ID tag your pet: Consider having your veterinarian microchip your pet, or make sure they always wear a collar and ID tag.