People who lose their precious fur kids are often distraught; and understandably, will do anything to get their babies back.
Scam artists and opportunists know this and will use this to their advantage. Sadly there are also pranksters.
For this article, this is how I'm defining the three:
Scam artists - those who lie, cheat, break the law to make money
Opportunists - those who may or may not provide a legitimate service but who use shady tactics to make money
Pranksters - those who aren't out to make money. But enjoy a laugh at other's people's pain
A typical scam artist ploy:
I was in the area for a conference. On my way home, I saw your dog. I took him with me. I’d be happy to get him back to you; I just need xxx dollars to ship him to you.
A typical opportunistic ploy
I’m sorry you lost your dog; I just want to let you know about this great service that helped me find my dog…etc...
Note this email is sent like it’s from one person to another. But why would one stranger send another stranger this email when there are so many lost dog postings all over the place.
A typical prankster ploy
Someone calls and says that they have your dog. They give you an address. You tried to find that address and it doesn’t exist. When you try to call back, the prankster will not answer the phone or will answer the phone and claim that the dog ran away.
Also please be aware that scam artists will also try to take advantage of people who have found a dog. They will claim that they want to buy the dog from you at a price that is too good to be true - without even meeting the dog.
The above are just some typical ploys. Be aware that other ploys exist:
Never send money or hand over money to anyone unless they are standing right in front of you holding your dog.
Don’t deal with people from out of town/state/country; don’t cash checks that are sent to you
Note that there are some legitimate pet searching companies (who may or may not be shady). If you decide to use one, try to find someone you know who has used them – don’t rely on an email from a stranger.
Ask them to provide the exact details of what they will do for you. Consider if this is something that you can do yourself (or with the help of friends) for free or for cheaper. Be sure to get an exact price quote in writing. Be wary of those sites that make you enter a bunch of personal information before giving you a price quote.
Additionally, if are trying to find a place for a found dog, be sure to thoroughly check out the person who is taking the dog from you. More in this in another post.
Sadly, it’s been my experience that many scam artists and opportunists hang out on Petfinder. It is a useful site. Be sure to use for lost and found, but also be very wary of anyone who contacts you from there.
A good article on petfinder concerning scam artists
Includes actual scam artist letters: http://www.petfinder.com/classifieds/scam.html