Scam artists take advantage of missing pet appeals

WHEN Lynn Sharp received a text message from a man claiming to have found her “Captain”, she was confident that the basset hound would be home soon.

LOST: Basset hound Captain’s owners were almost scammed by a man who pretended to have information about their pet Picture: SUPPLIED

But the Durban North resident soon discovered that the caller was only after the R1 000 reward she posted after her beloved pet went missing two weeks ago.

Scam artists are combing Facebook and Twitter posts to con pet owners out of rewards offered for their missing cats and dogs.

Desperate to get their pets back, some have offered R10 000 or “undisclosed amounts.”  Last month Durban resident Sharon Isaac offered a month’s salary, car wash and tattoo vouchers for the return of her cat.

On Monday Sharp said the suspected scam artist had first sent her a text message asking her to call him back.

“When I phoned him he said he was calling about dog and wanted to check how much is the reward. I said it was R1 000. I asked if he had the dog. He said yes.”

She then informed the man that she would give him the cash when she fetched her dog.

“He just shut down at that point. He wasn’t giving me any answers and eventually the call disconnected. He then didn’t pick up when I tried to call back,” Sharp said.

Sharp’s husband finally made contact with the caller, but couldn’t pin him down.

“He would call and say that he has the dog and that we should bring the money. He told us to call him in an hour for details but then he wouldn’t answer his phone. He messed us around for a few days and then he started saying things like meet him in the forest and he would give us the dog.”

“We don’t know if he planned to rob us but he never finalised any arrangements. We had then concluded that he was just trying to take advantage of the situation,” Sharp said.

Captain, who was unwell and on painkillers daily, is still missing.

Niki Moore, who heads Cats of Durban to help the feral and stray cats, recently put up a R10 000 reward to get back her two pedigree cats.

She said pet owners face a tough decision when it comes to offering rewards.

“It is a horrible situation to be in. If your cat or dog has just wondered off and has been taken in by another family, it makes sense to give them an incentive to return your pet. But then that does open you up to scammers.”

According to the Better Business Bureau, based in the United States, more pet owners are being scammed out of rewards due to the increasing “missing cats and dogs posts” on social media.

In a statement last month, the bureau description of the scam mirrored Sharp’s experience.

“Although you may be tempted to do anything to see your dog or cat returned safely, don’t pay up! The scammer doesn’t have your pet. They will just take the money and disappear.”

NIVASHNI NAIR

TimesLIVE/

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