Scammers Targeting Pet Owners with Lost Animals

( – Scammers will go to any lengths to exploit the vulnerable, and one latest scam proves just that. The Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Serving Erie County, New York, sent out a warning to pet owners about scam phone calls. A local woman reported the scam while visiting the SPCA in hopes of finding her lost cat. She said that the caller told her they were from a different animal shelter and that they were caring for her cat after they found it struck by a vehicle. The woman said she was told that her cat needed emergency surgery, but she had to pay an initial deposit over the phone before they could operate.

The scammer told the woman she could pay through a variety of payment platforms, including Apple Pay, CashApp, or Venmo. Thankfully, the woman suspected that the caller was a scammer and would not agree to send money. SPCA social media coordinator Jillian LeBlanc said that the organization would never hold an “animal hostage for payment,” and does not know of any other shelters that would engage in that type of activity. She said that scammers try to exploit people who are in dire situations and would likely “act first and think later.”

Pet owners often turn to social media to report a lost animal, especially on local public group pages. Owners will provide a general location, phone number, and a photograph or description of the lost pet. The scammer was likely scanning local group pages and found the woman’s phone number on her post about losing her cat.

The Better Business Bureau has posted information about how to protect yourself from becoming a victim of scammers. Like general lost and found procedures, do not include unique features of your animal, that way they can be used when speaking with someone who claims to have found your pet. Always ask for a call-back number at the beginning of the conversation. Scammers use spoof phone numbers to make it appear as if they are calling from a different location. Always ask for a photograph of your animal. If there is resistance, the person is likely a scammer. Do not ever send money to someone claiming to have your pet. Take your pet to be microchipped and purchase a GPS-tracked ID tag for your pet’s collar. If you see someone trying to sell your pet online, contact the police.

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