Lost Pet Scams

 

Found or Lost a Pet?

 

Con artists take advantage of devastated pet owners who are desperately looking for their lost pets.

They scan the lost pet ads in newspapers, online classifieds, or get the information from posters owners put up. They will then contact the owners pretending to have found their pets and asking them for money.

Below listed are some tips to protect yourself from becoming a victim - and also describe some common schemes that have been used to defraud victims ...

 

Protect yourself from scam artists:

  • Recognizing scams - Most scams involve one or more of the following:

    • Generic "Found" Ads: Some con artists will place very generic ads, such as "Found parrot -- owner call to identify" - when grieving pet owners call, these con artists will announce that this indeed is your pet and then give you the "terms" for their return - which usually involves the exchange of money - and in the end you won't get your pet back, as they never had it to start with.
      • When you respond to such an ad, don't provide ALL the information. Keep an identifying physical attribute to yourself (like a missing toe, the color of the leg ring, their favorite word (if they speak) - anything that only someone who actually has your parrot in his or her physical possession would know. If they can't give you that information - then you can safely assume that this is an attempt to defraud you.
    • Long-distance callers: Caller pretends to be far away, maybe even in a different country
    • They ask for money: They may request payment by Western Union, Money Gram, cashier's check, money order, shipping, escrow service, or a "guarantee" ... You can safely assume that anyone who asks you to pay them in this manner (in this context) is a scammer.
    • They won't meet: Callers pretend to be unable or refuse to meet you face-to-face before consummating the transaction.
    • They will meet, but find an excuse why you should pay them before actually seeing the animal: They may offer to meet you at a public location to return your pet and collect the reward you have offered. When you get there, they may tell you your pet is in their car and will go get him for you as soon as you pay the reward. Once they have the money, they will disappear.

  • Do not provide too much information in the ads or to people calling in with respect to lost pets.
    • When people call you claiming to have found your pet, the only way for you to know for sure if they actually have your pet is by the caller's ability to identify a distinguishing feature / mark on your pet that was not made public. That could be a scar, a crooked toe, an odd color spot on some parts of your pet's body, etc. etc.

  • Do not wire money to strangers. If they pressure you to send them money "so that they can return the pet to you" or "to provide needed medical care to your pet" - try the following instead ...
    • First see if they can identify distinguishing marks about your pet ... For your own peace of mind, you want to know if they really have your pet ...
    • Secondly, if you are still not sure if they have your pet or not -- tell them that you have relatives / friends in the area they are in who can pick the pet up -- or even that you will travel to that location to pick it up personally. See how they react to that -- Very likely, the scammers will either give up or they will find excuses why this wouldn't work ...
    • If they claim that your pet is injured and they need money for taking it to the vet, tell them that "your relatives" in that area will make arrangements for vet care ...
       
  • Fight con artists! If you suspect an attempt to defraud you, pretend to go along with the scam, get as much information as possible and contact the following ...
    • Non-emergency number for your local police department as well as calling the police department where the call originated.
    • FTC toll free hotline: 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357) / FTC online complaint form (www.ftc.gov)
    • Contact the Internet Fraud Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov/)
    • For Canada: Canadian PhoneBusters hotline: 888-495-8501
 

Sample Scams:

  • The Trucker / Long-distance Hoax:
    • Con artists pretend to be truck drivers who either picked your pet up on-the-way, or the pet somehow got into their truck / van while they were loading furniture or the like. They pretend to be at a distant location and may ask you for "gas money" to take the pet back, or to ship your pet to your location. Once they get your money, you'll never hear from them again.

  • The Telephone Scam:
    • The goal here is to get you to dial a number with an 809 area code and to keep you engaged in a long and expensive phone call. They may pretend to be in Mexico and not speak very well - stringing you along with broken English and misunderstandings.
 

Species Research by Sibylle Johnson

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