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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

How to resist those puppy dog eyes and spot fake pet ads

Jul 01, 2024 10:04PM ● By Mary Speer

Scammers are exploiting people’s love for animals by placing fake pet ads on Craigslist and similar sites. However, these so-called “breeders” have no pets to sell and are only interested in swindling your money. 

Watch out for these red flags:

  • The seller refuses to let you meet the pet in person.
  • The asking price for the animal seems unusually low.
  • The same advertisement appears on multiple platforms or different Craigslist locations.
  • Photos of the pet are missing, of poor quality or appear to have been altered.

If you suspect a scam, here are steps you can take:

  • Insist on meeting the animal in person before making any payment.
  • Conduct transactions only in person.
  • Use a reverse image search to check if the pet’s photo appears elsewhere online.
  • Report the seller to Craigslist and local authorities to help prevent further scams.

ANIMAL CONTROL SCAM

Another pet scam targets pet owners when their furry friends go missing. These scammers pose as local animal services agencies, demanding cash to cover supposed injuries or fees before returning the pet. They create fake profiles and join pet groups, posting about a found, injured or lost animal. They claim to have taken it to the vet and are trying to reunite it with its owner. It’s all a ploy to extort money from distraught pet owners, leaving them heartbroken and financially drained. 

Watch out for these red flags:

  • They claim to have your pet but cannot provide any photos.
  • They use the exact image you posted, but it appears altered to look slightly different.
  • They threaten harm to your pet.
  • They make excuses for not showing your pet either in person or through photos.
  • They demand money or some form of payment in exchange for your pet.

When advertising a lost pet, consider these safety tips:

  • Don’t mention your pet’s name. Both in the ad and on their ID tag, omitting your pet’s name prevents scammers from falsely claiming they have your pet.

  • Provide a partial description. Include just enough details about your pet to ensure that anyone who contacts you can provide additional characteristics or identifiers that only someone who actually found your pet would know.

  • Omit your home address. For your safety and privacy, do not include your home address in the ad. Instead, list the street or general area where your pet was last seen. This helps narrow down the search area without compromising your personal information.

A popular scam on Facebook. Scammers target reactive users and may add malicious links that spread to all their friends.

SOCIAL MEDIA SCAM

Another emerging lost pet scam involves scammers posting images of injured animals to Facebook, urging users to share the post to supposedly help locate the dog’s owner. 

Once the post is shared, the sharer’s susceptibility to future scams increases, as scammers identify and target these reactive users. Scammers may later update the post to include malicious links that the victim just unintentionally shared with all their friends.

To avoid falling prey to such scams, take the following precautions:

  • Check the comments. Scammers often disable comments to prevent others from exposing them.

  • Examine the poster’s profile: Typically, these accounts have few or no friends or followers and are newly created, signaling a likely fraudulent account.

  • Location details: Fraudulent posts usually lack specific details about where the animal was found. It may only include the name of the town or region.

  • Graphic images: Scammers commonly use disturbing images to evoke a quick emotional response.

  • Inappropriate groups: Instead of posting in dedicated lost/found animal groups, scammers often choose community resale or garage sale groups to reach a broader audience.

HOW TO SAFELY REUNITE FOUND PETS

If you or someone you know finds a lost animal, here are some steps to responsibly help reunite it with its owner:

1. Scan for a microchip: Take the animal to a local shelter or veterinary clinic to have it scanned for a microchip. This is often the fastest way to reconnect pets with their owners.

2. File a report with Animal Control: Contact El Paso County Animal Services at 719-473-1741 to report the found animal. They can record the details and assist in the search for the owner.

3. Use social media smarts: Post on local social media groups dedicated to lost and found animals. Include a picture of the animal and the location where it was found, but avoid too many specific details to ensure the right owner claims the pet.

4. Post flyers: Distribute flyers in the area where the animal was found. This can help alert locals who may know the animal and its owner.

HOW TO REPORT SCAMS

To report a lost pet recovery scam, you can use these resources as guided by the Better Business Bureau:

  • PetScams.com tracks and records complaints about fraudulent pet sales and scams. It works actively to shut down deceptive sites.
  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC): File a complaint online at FTC.gov or call 877-FTC-HELP to report fraudulent activities related to pet scams.
  • Better Business Bureau (BBB): Use the BBB’s Scam Tracker (BBB.org/scamtracker) to report and monitor online scams, helping others be aware of fraudulent schemes.
You may also like: You've found a stray pet. Now what? 

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