Many families have pets, and many consider pets to be a big part of the family, making someone’s greatest fear come to life when a pet has gone missing and is nowhere to be found. They’re not in their favorite hiding spot, in your backyard, or even wandering down your street. Where could they be? And what are you going to do besides your standard search of the neighborhood?
Nowadays, everyone’s first move of action is to go to social media and online, and for good reason. With missing pet websites like FidoFinder and apps like Finding Rover, it’s never been easier to put out the word that your family friend has gone missing. Don’t forget about Facebook, either. It’s become very easy to post an image online with the pet’s name, height, weight, and markings, along with your phone number, and share it with different groups in your community. This can take a couple of minutes at most, but that could be your first mistake. Doing this can easily expose you to a lost pet scam.
Lost pet scam, what’s that? Well, a lost pet scam is when an individual with ill intentions gets ahold of the information that you’ve posted online and takes that opportunity to try and milk you for some money. A missing pet owner will listen to anyone that says they may have seen or better yet, found their pet. Pet scammers know this and are quick to take advantage of it, praying on the vulnerability of the pet owner.
The way a lost pet scam works is that not long after the post about your missing pet goes out on the internet, you get a call or text from someone saying that they found your pet and would like a monetary reward in exchange for its return. When you ask them to provide you with a brief description of your pet and what they look like, they’re likely to repeat back the information that you’ve already posted online. This should be your first red flag.
When you ask for a picture or video of the animal to confirm that it really is your pet, they’re likely to make an excuse such as the fact that they’re out of town and not with the animal or how their phone camera doesn’t currently work. This should immediately raise additional concerns as they’re not able to prove that they actually have your pet.
How to Avoid Falling for a Pet Scam
As a frantic and concerned pet owner, you might be eager and willing to oblige and pay the individual just so you can get your pet back, but you absolutely should not do this. If you do, you’ll never hear back from the scammer and you definitely won’t be getting your pet back. An honorable person likely wouldn’t ask you to pay them before providing any proof that they actually are in possession of your pet.
In order to avoid falling for a lost pet scam, there are a few things you can do. One of them is to simply go the traditional route and skip technology altogether. Check veterinarian offices and local pet shelters. Print out flyers with photos of your pet and leave them at each vet office and pet shelter that you visit. Post the flyers you’ve printed on telephone poles, street lights, and public billboards, and ask to leave them on the windows of small businesses around town within a 5-10 mile radius of where your pet went missing.
If you still do decide to make a post online, consider using some of the missing pet resources like the ones listed above, as they’re credible and extremely useful. When you do post, whether it’s on one of the websites or on social media, make sure that you aren’t giving away too much information, such as any special markings your pet has that aren’t clearly visible in the photos that you’ve provided.
If you end up receiving a questionable phone call, make up an excuse and ask them if you can call them back. Scammers will typically use a fake or covered up phone number and will not allow you to call them. Also, ask for a photo or even better yet, a video, to prove that they have your pet.
Never, ever send money to anyone online. If you have offered a reward for the return of your pet, only provide it via cash and in-person when your pet is safely returned to you. If you follow these tips and exercise caution when dealing with questionable individuals, you should never fall for a lost pet scam.
Pet Training Tips
One sure-fire way to never have to deal with a lost pet scam is to decrease the probability that your pet runs away. This can be done through consistent behavioral training, whether by you or with the help of a professional. Teaching your pet that they’re not allowed to leave your house or yard without you can be the most valuable lesson you teach them. It doesn’t take long, but it will be worthwhile in the long run as you’ll never get a headache worrying about whether your pet might run away when given the opportunity.