Scammers target people of all ages and backgrounds, often focusing their attentions on people who are vulnerable. You’ve no doubt heard about dating site scams where unscrupulous individuals attempt to coerce money from lonely singles. But what if you’re distressed and emotional because your beloved pet and family member has recently gone missing – this could make you a prime target for a pet scammer.
You might think that you’re too smart to fall for any scam, but scams succeed because the scammers know exactly how to ‘push your buttons’ and because they often look just like the real thing.
When your cat or dog goes missing, its common practice to do everything you can to find them quickly. This probably means you’ve put up flyers in your local neighbourhood, advertised in your local paper, posted messages on lost and found pet websites, and shared your story on social media. Across all of these mediums you will have shared vital information about yourself and your pet, and your phone number will now be publically available.
Without realising it, you are a prime target for a cold-hearted pet scammer who is prepared to take advantage of your lost pet situation and trick you into parting with your money.
Common Pet Scams
1. Threaten to harm your pet
You receive a call from someone who says they have seen your ad and the offer of a reward in your local paper and they claim to have found your pet. Of course, they want the reward in advance of meeting you and they threaten to harm your precious pet just to make sure that you pay up.
2. Stole your pet and now want to claim reward
A person calls you saying they have seen your lost pet flyer in the neighbourhood, and they accurately describe your pet and any distinctive coat pattern or markings. They want to collect the reward and arrange to meet and return your pet.
You might not know them, but this person already knows you, they’ve seen you walking the dog or at the local pet store and they know how much you love your pet. They saw an opportunity to make some quick money, so they stole your pet, knowing you’d run an ad – they’d already planned to respond and collect the reward.
3. Two pet scammers working together
Two people work together – the first person will call you, seeking information about your pet’s appearance, size, weight and any other distinguishing features. They’ll be concerned and compassionate, but they’ll tell you that they’re mistaken and it’s not in fact your missing pet that they’ve found.
A day or two later their accomplice will call you back, using the information obtained from their partner in the scam and this time they’ll claim to have found your pet, and want to collect the reward money before meeting you.
4. Claim your pet was injured and want vet costs reimbursed
Sometimes, a pet scammer will also pull further on your heartstrings, telling you that your pet was injured when they found them but they generously took care of them and paid for vet treatment, which you’ll need to reimburse them for prior to them returning your pet. As we all know, vet bills are not cheap.
Protect Your Pet From Pet Scammers
Whilst there are many kind-hearted and generous pet lovers in the community, it’s a sad reality that there are also unscrupulous people out there who are happy to cash in on the misfortunes of others.
Here are a few things you can do to keep your pets safe and prevent scammers from targeting you:
- Make sure your pet is microchipped, has ID tags, and is registered with your local Council.
- Keep your pet indoors or within the confines of your property at all times.
- If your pet does go missing, only include essential information in any advertising.
- When someone calls you claiming to have found your lost pet, make sure you ask for their contact number if their Caller ID is not displayed on your phone.
- Get callers to give you a detailed description of the pet they have found, don’t answer lots of questions or give them information which they can later use to scam you.
Have you ever been the target of an unscrupulous pet scammer? Please share your experiences below.
Top image: Morgan via Flickr