Lost Your Pet? Watch Out For The Scam

The disappearance of a family pet can be heart-wrenching. It's also an emotional and desperate time when a pet owner will do almost anything to secure the return of their beloved animal. And for that reason, it could be a time when sound judgment is diminished. And it could make you an easy mark for a shifty con artist.

Con artists have no conscience and will use any gimmick or deception even grief over a lost pet to steal your money. Don't let it happen to you!

Here's how this particular scam usually works: Your pet wanders off, so you scour the neighborhood, post fliers on telephone poles, even place an ad in the local newspaper or shopper offering a reward. And that's when the phone rings. The caller sounds incredibly sincere and caring. He says he's a trucker and a pet lover, too, and was traveling through town recently and found your pet wandering the streets.

He may even ask you to describe some distinguishing marks on your pet, walk away from the phone for a moment and then return. "That's your pet alright," he replies. Of course, the trucker is now in another state, but if you wire him some money, he will be happy to board Fifi on the next flight home. You want so much to believe that your pet has been found that it doesn't dawn on you just how implausible this story seems. But you shouldn't believe it. Chances are, it's a scam. If you wire the funds, you'll never see your pet - or your money - again.

Sometimes, the con artist starts out with a very small travel fee for the return of your pet. That's a hook to draw you in. Once he's got you, the costs soar as he adds on additional items - anything from pet food and flea dip to a travel crate and a health certificate needed to board the plane.

But how did the con artist find out about your lost pet? It's very simple now that many newspapers post their publications - including classified advertising - on the Internet. Just a few simple computer key strokes and anyone in the country can access your lost pet advertisement. 

That's all the more reason to exercise caution, fully investigate any claim and be very careful about sending money to a stranger.