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Beware the lost and found pet scam making its way around Idaho

Little kittens in a cage of a shelter for homeless animals
Adobe Stock
Little kittens in a cage of a shelter for homeless animals

The Idaho Humane Society is warning people about a new scam preying on animal owners who have lost their beloved pet.

Humane Society Spokesperson Kristine Schellhaas said scammers will find lost and found posts on craigslist, or online groups, and give distraught owners a call. They do this by using technology that imitates the organization’s real phone number.

“They'll find the name of your dog or your cat that's missing and then they spoof Animal Care and Control's number so it looks like someone is officially calling you,” she said. “Of course, this is not Animal Care and Control.”

They’ll ask for money to reunite you with your pet or claim they need thousands of dollars in veterinarian care.

“They try to prey on people where they are the weakest,” said Schellhaas. “Nobody wants to lose their pet if they think that there's a chance that they can save them.”

Schellhaas said the scammers will claim your pet will die if you don’t pay them through Venmo or an online credit card portal. That’s a red flag: the Humane Society will treat animals who come into the shelter first and figure out details with owners later.

“We will never ask for money over the phone,” Schellhaas explained. “We will never try to barter with your pet or say, ‘we will do this, if you do this.’ That is not how we work at all so know that if someone's asking for money, it is a scam.”

Schellhaas added if you find yourself getting a call from someone claiming to be a Humane Society Officer, you should hang up and call to check with the organization directly.

This scam is happening nationwide and law enforcement believes the calls are made from outside the country. Schellhaas said they’ve heard reports of people being defrauded through this scam in Idaho for about a year.

As the Fourth of July celebrations continue, a reminder that fireworks can be traumatic for pets, and dogs in particular are more prone to run away.

I joined Boise State Public Radio in 2022 as the Canyon County reporter through Report for America, to report on the growing Latino community in Idaho. I am very invested in listening to people’s different perspectives and I am very grateful to those who are willing to share their stories with me. It’s a privilege and I do not take it for granted.

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