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2 Heartless scammers are preying on peoples lost pet anguish Dont fall for it

Heartless scammers are preying on people’s lost pet anguish

Scammers prey on society’s most vulnerable members, stopping at nothing to exploit their victims’ emotions for financial gain. In a despicable new scheme, these con artists are stooping to a new low by taking advantage of distraught pet owners desperately searching for their lost companions. 

The “lost pet” scam cunningly manipulates the anguish and attachment felt by loving owners to extract money through deception.

This insidious tactic tugs at heartstrings, making it imperative for pet owners to be informed and vigilant against falling prey to such callous exploitation during their time of distress. Here’s what you need to know so you don’t fall victim to this scam and can focus on finding your beloved pet.

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A man on the street with his dog. (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

What is the ‘lost pet’ scam?

The “lost pet” scam is a scam that specifically targets owners of lost pets. Imagine your dog runs away or your cat gets out the window. You post “lost pet” signs all over your neighborhood and also share a post on social media with the hopes of spreading the news far and wide in case someone finds your pet. You may even offer a reward (but this won’t matter to scammers who have other tactics to get money up their sleeves already).

The scammers explicitly look out for or search online for these postings (which is not hard to do) and call the number on the sign or post. Then, the owner on the other end of the line — who is already probably anxious to receive this call — is suddenly caught off guard by the scammer’s tactics. One tactic is to claim that they’ve found your pet but had to take it to the vet, and they need the money to pay the vet bill.

Another is to tell the victim they’ve found the pet, but they are asking for an exorbitant amount of money. When the owner realizes this may be more of an extortion (thinking that the scammer still very much has their pet in their possession), the scammer may start to threaten to hurt the animal until the victim hands over the money. They will even go as far as to threaten to kill the pet if the victim turns the tables and threatens to call the police.

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lost cat sign

“Lost cat” post on tree. (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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How to avoid falling victim to ‘lost pet’ scammers 

The first thing to understand is that a scammer is not your friend. Most people who find a lost pet are going to help get it back to the owner. Chances are, if a scammer is calling you, they don’t actually have your pet. And, if they do (perhaps they have even stolen your pet), then you’ll want to call the police regardless.

1. Ask the person to describe your pet. To avoid them reading your “lost pet” posters, try to leave some information on the posters that only someone with your physical pet would know.

2. Tell them you want to “hear” your pet. Most pet owners can recognize their dog’s bark.

3. Ask them to tell you how and when they found your pet.

4. If your pet has a microchip, ask them to scan it.

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5. Ask for video proof or a photo of your pet. Remember, AI is helping scammers to get away with this more easily, so if it looks fake, it probably is. If they do, in fact, have your pet, agree to give them the money in person when they hand over your pet.

6. If they claim to have to pay a vet bill, tell them you have insurance on the pet and that you’ll need to talk to the vet’s office where they took it. If you can find out the scammer’s location or get an idea of where they are calling from, then you can search for veterinary offices in that area to see if anyone has seen the pet.

Of course, aside from all of this, do your very best to keep your pet safe. Make sure you have proper fencing and an appropriate harness/leash for walks. In addition to these scammers taking advantage of people with lost pets, there are those who actually steal pets and extort the owners, too — something that’s sadly becoming more common these days. Some pet owners, for instance, will put a GPS tracker on their pet to help in these situations, but hackers can get access to that as well and use it to track down your pet (and, by default, you).

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How to use the internet to actually help find your lost pet

Too many of us know the pain of having a pet run away from home. The good news is that microchips and social media can give pet owners hope that they may actually see their pets again. But it’s important to use the internet safely so that you don’t fall victim to one of these scams while ensuring you’re focused on connecting with people who actually have your and your pet’s interests at heart.

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Research the local animal shelters and pounds in your area. They may have your pet, and by going online, you can often find the best and quickest way to get in touch with them. And, it also helps to give them a heads-up in case that pet comes in through their doors.

Look for local neighborhoods and community groups, as well as “lost/found pet” groups in your area. It’s safer to join groups that require members to be invited or answer questions to get in to limit the number of strangers who don’t belong in these groups. There, you can first browse “found pets” to see if anyone has come across yours. If you don’t see anything, then post about your pet and include a photo, but see if you can leave out one or two less important identifying details that only a person physically with the pet could see.

woman with dog

A woman with her pet. (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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Kurt’s key takeaways

Look, I get it — losing a pet is an incredibly stressful and emotional experience. Your furry friend is part of the family, so, of course, you’ll do anything to get them back safe and sound. But please, be on high alert for these heartless scammers trying to take advantage of your vulnerability. They have no shame and will stoop to new lows to line their own pockets.

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At the end of the day, use common sense. If something seems fishy about someone claiming to have your pet, trust your gut. Don’t let desperation cloud your judgment. Stay vigilant, but also try to keep a level head. Your pet is counting on you to outsmart the scammers. With some street smarts and the right precautions, you can focus on what really matters — getting your beloved companion back home where they belong, safe and sound in your arms once again.

Have you ever encountered a scam during a vulnerable time? We’d love to hear your story and any wisdom you can share to help others navigate these challenges. Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact

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