HOUSTON – A new scam targets people who have lost a pet.
Sadly, the most recent victim was Conroe’s Lisa Sousley.
Sousley and her daughter Zoe adore their dog, Spooky. Spooky and Zoe are only a year apart and grew up together.
“We found out when she was 9 months old [that] she was autistic.
So for Zoe, Spooky, her service dog, is more than just a pet. He is family.
“He sleeps with her,” Sousley noted. “I mean, he loves her.”
Sousley and her daughter stay in town while her mother undergoes heart surgery. They knew the ride from Conroe would be too heavy during this difficult time.
“We went to our home in Conroe to pick up the dog because we knew we would be staying here for a few more days,” she added.
On the way back to the hotel, Sousley says she stopped at the HEB on Rayford Road.
She left Zoe and Spooky in the car for a few minutes. When she returned, Spooky was gone. He had jumped out of the window. But because Zoe is non-verbal, she couldn’t tell Sousley where he ran off to. She immediately posted on Nextdoor and Facebook, hoping someone would recognize him.
“I posted there and said we were in the HEB parking lot. That’s where I was wrong,” she said. “I put my phone number there -inside.”
A day later, she received a text.
“She’s like, ‘Hi, I’m Donna, have you lost your male dog?'” the woman said.
The person who texted her asked her to send a Google verification code to prove that she was the owner of Spooky.
“Of course I don’t think about it,” Sousley explained. “I was like, ‘OK,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, you can.'”
The person who texted even asked for the number of a family member or friend. She also provided them with that.
After posting the interaction on Nextdoor, neighbors helped her figure out it was a scam. The grammar was not correct and the texts seemed slightly robotic.
So, she quickly blocked the number but it didn’t stop there.
Because she had clicked on the link to get the Google code, her information was exposed. During the day, several other people told him that they also had Spooky. She says she also receives non-stop spam calls.
“Having them call saying they have your dog and hopefully like that sucks.”
She said she erased her saved passwords and all sensitive information saved through her Google account.
The website called PawBoost is a popular place to post information about lost pets.
The BBB encourages victims to file reports at BBB Scam Tracker to help warn others.
Here’s how the scam works:
You recently lost your pet, so you’re posting photos of your pet all over your neighborhood or taking to social media to alert your friends and neighbors. You create a public post — or even a group — to help spread the word. You share your phone number and other details, so people can easily reach you.
A few days later, you receive a text message from someone claiming to have found your lost dog or cat. You ask them to describe your pet and/or send a photo, but the conversation quickly takes a strange turn. The scammer will give excuses, like being out of town or not having a working smartphone, as to why they can’t take a picture. Instead, the person will pressure you for money (or a gift card) to return your pet. Although you may be tempted to do everything to get your dog or cat back safe and sound, don’t pay! The scammer does not have your pet. They’ll just take the money and disappear.
In other cases, the pet was actually stolen and the scammer will demand payment for safe return – or they may try to sell your pet online to someone else.
Follow these tips to avoid falling victim to a lost pet scam:
Limit information in your social media posts: If you post to Facebook or other social media, omit information about unique physical attributes. It can help you check if someone really found your pet.
Watch out for spoofed numbers: If you get a call from someone claiming to have your pet, ask them for a phone number where you can call them back. Scammers often spoof phone numbers, so they appear to be calling from elsewhere.
Request a picture: If a caller claims to have your pet in their possession, ask them to send a current photo. If the “finder” gets defensive or makes a lot of excuses, that’s a red flag.
Never transfer money or use a prepaid debit card to pay someone you don’t know. It’s the same as sending money.
Never give out personal passwords or login information.
Microchip and/or identification tag for your animal: Consider having your veterinarian microchipped your pet and make sure they always wear a collar and ID tag. Newer ID tags with GPS trackers can be purchased to find your pet’s location.
call the police if your pet has been stolen or if you see someone else trying to sell your pet online.
To learn more about scams, go to BBB scam tips.
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