How To Rec...

How To Recognize And Avoid Lost Pet Scams

By Andrea Quarracino | November 23, 2021

When our four-legged best friend goes missing, there's little we wouldn't do to bring them back home safely. And while it makes sense to want to leave no stone unturned, when it comes to reuniting with our missing pets, it pays to consider the source.

Lost pet scams are those that take advantage of a heartbroken pet parent by encouraging them to pay money to reclaim their cat or dog, and they may be more common than you'd think. Wondering how to get your missing pet home safely without prey to a pet recovery scam? Read on.

We've discovered that offering a reward for lost dogs results in many more people chasing and trying to capture a lost dog.

Kat Albrecht, Missing Animal Response Network

4 Common Types of Lost Pet Scams

According to pet detective Kat Albrecht↗, it helps to get familiar with some of the more common scenarios, including:

Scam #1: The truck driver scam. Someone pretends to be a long-haul trucker who found your pet near the highway and wants money to transport your pet to your area.

Scam #2: The "I know who has your pet" scam. Someone claims to know who took your pet and will help you recover them for a fee.

Scam #3: The "your pet is injured, and I need money to pay the veterinarian" scam. Someone says that your animal has been hurt, so they'll need you to pay the vet costs before bringing your pet back.

Scam #4: The wire money upfront scam. Also, note the common themes. In those scenarios, someone contacts you based on the information you've shared in your pet recovery search, and they want money before they're willing to help.

How to Detect Red Flags

To sniff out a potential scammer, Mark Sloat at Austin Animal Center suggests asking to see your pet in person or asking them to share a detail about your pet that you haven't included on a lost pet poster or flyer↗. If a response to your lost pet post, poster, or flyer elicits a response like this, proceed with caution:

  • They say they have your pet but can't provide photos.

  • They offered the exact image you posted but edited it to lighten or change the background.

  • They make threats regarding your pet.

  • They make excuses about why you can't see your pet in person or in photos.

  • They ask for money or other sensitive information like a Google verification code.

Also, if you're considering paying for a lost pet recovery service, like a pet detective with a trained search dog, be sure to check their references and verify the source of the person's training. Try the Missing Animal Response Network pet detective directory↗ for help.

Lost Pet Scams: FAQs

Should I Offer A Reward For My Lost Dog?

In short, no. "We've discovered that offering a reward for lost dogs↗ results in many more people chasing and trying to capture a lost dog," says Kat Albrecht of the Missing Animal Response Network. She discourages chasing a lost dog↗ because it can make a recovery much more difficult.  

"Instead of putting 'REWARD LOST DOG' on a poster, we recommend 'PLEASE HELP: LOST DOG,'" she says. Learn more about the neuroscience between offering a reward or asking for help↗.  

Can I Post My Lost Pet On Social Media Without Getting Scammed?

Yes — and in fact, sharing information about your lost pet on social media platforms like Facebook, Craigslist and Nextdoor can be a fast, effective way to get the word out about your missing pet. To file a report for a missing dog or cat, using a reputable database like Petco Love Lost↗ can also help cast a wider net in your search and make sharing your pet's information easy and fast.

How to post a lost cat or dog on Facebook:

Look for a community lost and found pets page or group. When you're posting, lead with the most relevant information:

  • Choose a headline like “LOST DOG, PLEASE HELP."

  • Post a picture of your pet with a description, but save some details if you need to verify your pet is found.

  • Try sharing your lost pet listing from Petco Love Lost↗ to make this process easy and fast while protecting your contact information.

How to post a lost cat or dog on Nextdoor:

Because Nextdoor already targets your immediate community, you don't have to search out a local found pets page before you post.

  • Try a headline like “LOST CAT, PLEASE HELP."

  • Post a picture of your pet with a description, but save some details only you would know.

  • You can also share your lost pet listing from Petco Love Lost to quickly post while protecting your contact information.

How to post a lost cat or dog on Craigslist: 

Kathy Pobloskie of Lost Dogs of America↗ suggests posting in two places on Craigslist: Lost and Found, and Pets and Supplies. As with Facebook or other social media platforms, be selective about the information you share. Remember to be wary of red flags when you get responses, like those asking you to send money before offering to help recover your pet. 

How Can I Report a Lost Pet Recovery Scam?

According to the Better Business Bureau↗, you can report attempted pet scams through the following sources:  

  • Petscams.com↗This site tracks complaints and works to remove fraudulent pet sales websites.

  • Federal Trade Commission↗ (FTC):Here, you can file a complaint online or call 877-FTC-HELP.

  • Better Business Bureau↗Try the BBB Scam Tracker to report online scams.

  • Canadian Antifraud Centre↗Report scams running in Canada. 

  • Your bank or credit card company: If you provided a credit card number, reach out to your bank or credit card issuer.

With a little due diligence, you’ll be on your way to getting the help you need to recover your lost dog or cat without falling for a scam in the process. 


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