If you are looking for a lost pet, scammers may try and take advantage of you. Lost pet scams have become rampant, especially on Facebook and other social media sites.
Lost Pet Research Identity Scam
How the Scam Works
Scammers are commenting on lost pet posts on Facebook. The scammer tells you to text a number stating something like "they are the best in finding missing animals. They found my dog and I thank them everyday." They use numerous phone numbers.
When you text the number, they pretend to be a member of my team. They often provide my logo and links to my website. The scammer will claim they offer on-site services, and attempt to get you to send payment via Cashapp, PayPal, zelle or bitcoin. They often ask for partial payment up front and the rest will be due after finding your pet.
How to Avoid this Scam
Lost Pet Research is operated by me, Danielle Robertson, and I currently do not have any employees, contractors or interns. My business number is 413-367-7171. If someone contacts you from any other number, they are probably a scam.
To be safe, please only purchase lost pet consultations and guides through my website. All on-site services are scheduled through my Lost Pet Form. I start most scheduling via email (info or firstname.lastname@example.org) and will talk to you before you make a reservation.
What to do if someone attempted to scam you
If possible, please send me screenshot showing the Facebook post and messages with the scammer (send to email@example.com or via Facebook message). I can use this information to warn the Facebook page admins to watch out for these lost pet scams.
You can also submit a report with the FTC and try reporting the Facebook profile of the person initiating the scams. If someone succeeds in scamming you out of money, you may also want to contact local law enforcement.
Lost Pet Service Scams
Scammers are impersonating many lost pet rescue businesses and volunteer groups. Some are also creating made up businesses. They will offer to provide search dogs, assistance searching or trapping, or phone call alerts (to name a few).
How to Avoid this Scam
Many legitimate lost pet service businesses will request partial up front payment, so this is not a red flag by itself.
Some red flags include:
- Poor English or grammar
- Repeated requests that you need to send money before they can help
- Not answering your questions in any detail
Ask for a website and/or do a search for their business/group name:
- Verify that the phone number on the site matches the phone number that you are texting
- Check the Services description, Service Area and About Us. Do they match with what the person is telling you?
- Is payment requested on their website? Does it match what the person is asking you to do?
A really committed scammer could create a detailed website though few do. Check for additional online presence such as:
- Online reviews
- A Google Maps business listing
- Facebook page with a history of posting
If you are at all suspicious, contact the group or company through their website or Facebook. Try calling the number that you are texting and the number on the website or Facebook page. If you are really concerned, you might even request a video call to make sure that the person you are talking to matches pictures on the website.
I Found Your Pet Scam
These lost pet scammers will contact you and claim that they have your pet. They will request payment prior to returning your pet. They may make up some hardship such as living far away and not being able to afford to drive your pet back. Or they may tell you that your pet is injured and they need money immediately for treatment.
How to Avoid this Scam
This is one of the more difficult scams to deal with emotionally. If someone really has your pet, they should be able to at the very least send photos. Most people should be able to do a video call.
In general, scammers will pressure you to send money in advance. They will often make lots of excuses for not being able to provide proof they have your pet or meet in person.
If they claim to be unable to return your pet to you, ask them to bring your pet to the police station, local animal shelter or rescue group. Make sure to contact this group so they know the situation and don't adopt out your pet.
If they claim that your pet needs immediate vet attention, then ask them for the vet's phone number. Tell them you will call and coordinate care with the vet. Do make sure that the number provided matches a vet listing and/or website online.
Verification Code Scam
This is a variation of the I Found Your Pet Scam. The scammer will claim that they have your pet, and in order to verify that you are the owner, they will text you a verification code. NEVER provide anyone with verification codes. They will use this verification code to access your online accounts.
This is another I Found Your Pet Scam. The scammer will claim to have your pet and request to claim your reward. Before meeting someone, attempt to verify through photos, or preferably a video call, that they really have your pet.
If you meet someone to claim your pet, do so in a public location, perhaps even the parking lot of your police department. These lost pet scammers may attempt to rob you or worse. If you must go to someone's house, consider bringing one or more people with you.
What to do if someone tries to scam you (or succeeds)
If someone attempts to scam you, submit a report with the FTC. You can also try reporting the Facebook profile of the person initiating the scams. If someone succeeds in scamming you out of money, you may also want to contact local law enforcement .
The information provided on this website does not constitute legal or professional safety advice and is for educational purposes only. If someone has scammed you, I recommend seeking legal advice from a lawyer and speaking with law enforcement.