It is hard to believe that people are cruel enough to attempt to scam those who have a pet who is missing. Unfortunately, it happens far too frequently. The scams usually involve information you have shared on social media or in flyers about your missing your pet. The scammer contacts you claiming to have, or know who has your lost pet.
The scammer uses your emotions to try to con you out of paying money to have your pet returned to you. They may claim that your pet was injured, and they paid veterinarian expenses, and they want reimbursement. Other versions might be that they were traveling through and need money to pay to ship your animal back to you.
Scams can also involve animal theft, where popular breed animals are stolen and then re-sold. If you suspect your pet may have been stolen, keep a check on Craig’s list and other sites where animals are bought and sold.
If you have offered a reward for the safe return of your pet, and the person wants the reward first, refuse. The reward clearly states it is for the safe return of your pet. The scammer may then threaten to harm your pet if you do not pay the reward. Though this can be heartwrenching and difficult. Remember, it is improbable this person has your pet. Refuse to pay the reward unless your pet is returned safely, and notify the police.
How to Protect Yourself
To protect yourself from scams, when your pet is missing:
· When posting pictures of your pet on social media sites, or flyers, do not reveal one specific identifying feature. For instance, if your pet has a white tip on his tail, or a scar on his back leg, crop those things from the photo.
· Avoid giving out too much personal information on flyers and social media listings for your lost pet. Do not put your address or too many details about your pet.
· Do the same thing when posting your pet on lost pet apps such as Finding Rover, Shadow app, or the ASPCA app. The Shadow app currently only covers the East and West Coast.
· If someone contacts you asking for money, ask them to identify this particular detail about your dog. If the caller cannot identify the feature, you know you are dealing with someone who does not have your pet.
· Ask for them to send you a picture of your pet, but even if it looks like your missing pet, do not send them money.
· If they are claiming veterinarian expenses, ask them to provide the bill and let them know you will pay in person when you see your dog.
· Call the veterinarian’s office listed on the bill to verify the treatment and charges.
· Meet in a public place, or better yet, a police station to exchange the money for the verified vet bill for your animal.
· If they claim to be in another state and can provide unknown details about your dog, offer to pick the animal up instead of paying shipping costs. If they are okay with this arrangement, then you may be dealing with a legitimate good Samaritan. You can contact a rescue organization in the area where your pet is supposed to be, and ask them to pick up the pet and then arrange for transportation.
Always have your pet microchipped. Most good Samaritans who find a lost pet will have them checked for a microchip. A microchip is critically important if your dog is stolen. An estimated two million pets are stolen each year in the United States.
If you have reason to believe your pet was stolen, file a police report right away. Filing a report helps establish a paper trail and will help you verify your ownership. People steal pets for a variety of reasons, but dognapping and waiting for a reward to be offered is common. If a reward is not offered, owners are frequently contacted and told to pay a ransom. Stealing an animal is a crime, and the police should be involved.
Scams also target those wishing to buy a pet. The con artist will pretend to offer a particular breed of pet. They may even go so far as to have a website full of false information. You put a deposit down on a pet, and the person disappears. This type of scam happens for all types of animals, and an alarming number of people fall prey to it each year. Remember, shelters and rescues are always the best places to find your new pet. You are saving an animal’s life while adding an excellent addition to your family.
Missing pets make owners vulnerable, as they are desperate to see their pet returned safely. Scammers who prey on the love pet owners have for their pets are despicable. Keep yourself safe from predators so that you can focus on the search for your lost pet.