Scammers’ lost and hurt pet posts on social media sites take advantage of well-meaning people.

Few things tug at our heartstrings like our furry friends, and no one wants to see a hurt dog or cat that has gone missing from its owner. Most of us have seen legitimate posts on social media from friends or neighbors sharing information about a lost pet. In fact, there are social media sites solely dedicated to reunite missing animals with their owners.

Unfortunately, scammers know that most people have good intentions and would eagerly share posts about a hurt/lost animal. Many of us may have been victim of this type of scam and not even know it.

The scam begins with a post on social media that shows a hurt/lost pet and a plea to reshare. After the post has been reshared a multitude of times, scammers change the original post to promote a deceptive rental ad. The scam relies on the fact that most people won’t look back at their past posts and notice the change, at least not before others view the post.

The end result is that your social media contacts believe you shared a legitimate rental post that will in fact scam people out of money. These rental posts will ask inquirers to send a deposit to hold the property. The problem is that there is no property and the deposit will never be returned to the victims of this scam. Often this will also involve personal information from the victims to the scammers as well. Sometimes the bait-and-switch scam post will contain a malicious link pointing to a survey that ‘guarantees’ a cash payout but steals your personal information.

How do you know if what you are seeing is a scam? Look for the red flags. First, almost every pet scam post has the same wording — a pet has been hurt or found, and it is not chipped. The scammer will often post on a social media site that is not pet-related, such as a garage sale site. They may also hashtag your city (such as #Riverview) to make you feel like this has certainly happened in your community. And, they always ask to “bump this post.”

Another thing you can do to see whether a post is legitimate is click on the profile of the person who posted about the hurt/lost pet. Almost all of these scammers have locked their profiles so that people cannot comment on their posts, they have no followers/friends and they show no legitimate posts on their page.

If you see a friend has shared this kind of scam post on social media, it’s important to alert them of these bait-and-switch posts quickly so that they don’t inadvertently lead their friends and family to be scammed out of money or suffer potential identity theft. You can also report the scammer’s profile to Facebook. If you have any questions about the legitimacy of a lost or injured pet post, you can also visit the “FAKE LOST/FOUND DOG POSTS” group on Facebook, where there will be an ongoing list.

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Kelly Wise Valdes
Kelly Wise Valdes has been writing for the Osprey Observer since 2008. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications and enjoys writing and traveling. She currently resides in northern Hillsborough County with her husband, David. When not traveling and writing, Kelly and her husband enjoy spending time with their five grown children (as well as their grandchildren) that still keep them very busy.