Lost Pet Scam – Going For Your Heart

Owners Of Pets Who Post About Their Lost Pets Are Being Scammed

A SCARS Special Report

New scam targets owners of lost pets


What To Watch Out For:

A new scam is targeting owners of lost pets.

The scammers text the lost pet’s owner claiming they have the dog or cat but request a “code” in return for the owner to see a picture of the pet.

One victim said “I got a message from a guy saying he found her, he messaged me through Craigslist saying I need to send him a verification code, so he could send me images and I could pick her up,” who is owner of a Chihuahua mix that went missing.

After the pet was lost the owner went and looked for it, asked neighbors, posted signs locally, and posted it on their social media – that was the trigger for the scammers.

The owner then received a text message that someone had found their pet. But the person asked him multiple times to send him a verification code that was texted to the owner’s cell phone number – much like website platforms do to confirm identity (but this lets the scammers actually confirm that a person really has a mobile phone number – the two together can be used to steal an identity).

The codes having a message included stating: “####### is your Google verification code. Don’t share this with anyone.” But they could just as easily be from Facebook, Instagram or any other platform.

Scammers exploit emotions, it is something they are expert at – just look at romance scams, sextortion, grandparent scams, and more.

The scammer then started asking the owner for their friends and family members’ phone numbers and asked for the codes texted to their phones.  So now, the scammers are confirming a whole chain of contacts that can be exploited.

Owners feel incredibly upset and violated by this scam. This is a true relationship scam because there is a one-to-one relationship established between scammer and victim.

According to the Better Business Bureau on what exactly scammers are doing with these codes. One reason they stated is the scammers are creating Google Voice numbers to scam more people.

“Perhaps they are trying to steal your identity because this number is attached to this person. They might try and spoof your phone and make a google phone number and start contacting people as if they were you,”  the BBB said.

She said scammers are finding posts through social media and targeting people while they are vulnerable and upset about their pet being lost.

“Scammers will pressure you. They want that sense of urgency, they want you to react with your emotions and not take a stepback and analyze what’s going on,” Villagrana said.

Here Is The Secret Behind The Codes

As many know, you need verification codes to open new accounts on many platforms. The verification process often requires a code texted to a cell phone.

What the scammers are doing is using victims’ phone numbers when they set up these accounts, but they do not have the actual phones that correspond to those numbers – the victim does.

The Solution?

  1. Find a target and prepare them to receive a code.
  2. Sign up the account under someone’s name (who is targeted because of a lost pet or other reason) and give the phone number to the platform for verification.
  3. The victim provides that verification number to the scammer
  4. The scammer enters that code in the platform to verify they are the name stolen from the victim
  5. The scammer now has a new account or profile in a new name
  6. Now do it for all the family members

Not A Normal Financial Fraud Scam

This is not a normal financial fraud scam, this is about setting up accounts that can be used later, possibly even sold to other scammers, accounts that can be used. This is time-consuming, but real named accounts are increasingly valuable.

In many cases, once they have the new account set up under the victim’s name, they will copy everything from the victim’s social media (Facebook or Instagram) profiles to make the fake ones look more real.

They may even create a fundraiser for the lost pet or some other reason to get a few extra dollars from friends, family, and others in the process!

This is being done typically out of Indian and Asian contact centers that have switched from legitimate telemarketing or business process outsourcing over to scamming. Then once these accounts are created, they will be sold on the DarkWeb. See here: Facebook Profiles For Sale Cheap

All The Red Flags

Like most socially engineered scams, this one has all the hallmark characteristics:

  • Find and target a vulnerable victim
  • Create a pull through – the scammer has something the victim wants
  • A sense of urgency
  • Hope for a positive outcome
  • And sadly, ultimate emotional devestation

Some Tips:

If Your Pet Gets Stolen Or Goes Missing:

  • It is not unusual for the “finder” to ask for a reward – the owners probably said they would pay one – so this is not (exactly) extortion if they ask
  • Request a photo of the pet if anyone claims to have them
  • Request a FaceTime, Zoom, or face-to-face call so you can see your pet
  • Ask to meet in a public place to get the pet back if possible – if they ask you to meet at a residence, as your local police to accompany you
  • Don’t send any personal information but be prepared to show the finder confirmation of your ownership (photos, any titles or papers, etc.)
  • Stop responding if something doesn’t feel right and report the scam at reportfraud.FTC.gov and Anyscam.com
  • Lockdown your profiles on Facebook, Instagram, etc. Keep your privacy settings tight to prevent being targeted – only a person’s friends need to see it anyway.


Scammers need each person to be available and vulnerable before they can use them. Unfortunately, everyone can be scammed and this is just one more example of that.

Every person has a duty to report these crimes, without that the scammers get away. While law enforcement along with crime prevention organizations are doing their part, each person has to help by reporting and supporting.

Everything you post online can be used against you!
Not even we like scammers!

Always Report All Scams – Anywhere In The World To:

Go to reporting.AgainstScams.org to learn how

U.S. FTC at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/?orgcode=SCARS and SCARS at www.Anyscams.com
Visit reporting.AgainstScams.org to learn more!

TAGS: SCARS, Scams, Scammers, Fraudsters, Cybercrime, Crybercriminals, Scam Victims, Online Fraud, Online Crime Is Real Crime, Scam Avoidance, Lost Pet Scam, Lost & Found Scams, Pet Owner Victims, Dogs, Cats, Pets, Find My Pet



SCARS the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Incorporated

By the SCARS™ Editorial Team
Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.

A Worldwide Crime Victims Assistance & Crime Prevention Nonprofit Organization Headquartered In Miami Florida USA & Monterrey NL Mexico, with Partners In More Than 60 Countries
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