CLEVELAND — The Better Business Bureau is warning pet owners about a missing pet scam that uses Google Voice after a Lakewood woman said a scammer contacted her when she reported her lost dog on the internet.
The woman said that in February she posted about her missing pet, and within 15 minutes of her posting she received a text message from someone claiming they had her dog.
The person asked her if they could send a six-digit code to verify that it was her dog and then they would return it. The woman, seeing that the phone number was from California, didn’t answer them when she called them. Since it was a California number, she didn’t believe that they had her dog and didn’t provide the person with any information.
The BBB said the Federal Trade Commission released an alert about Google Voice verification scams and how they work. Scammers will attempt to link a Google voice number to a victim’s actual phone number. To do this, the scammers need to request Google Voice to send a verification code to the victim’s phone number.
BBB offered these additional tips for missing pet scammers:
- Limit the information in social media and online posts - Omit information about physical pet attributes if posting about a missing animal online. This can help to verify if someone found the pet by asking questions regarding characteristics not mentioned in the original missing pet listing.
- Watch for red flags - If the person who says they have recovered a lost pet requests payment or refuses to meet in person in a public place first, this is a red flag. Scammers will often request victims to wire money. This can be in the form of a cashier’s check, money order, prepaid debit card, Bitcoin transaction, or Zelle. Ask individuals to send photographs or to Facetime with the animal. If the "finder" gets defensive or makes a lot of excuses, that’s also a red flag.
- Choose a safe spot to recover the animal - May cities offer a “safe trade” location for residents. This is often an area with surveillance cameras or a police station parking lot. Use these locations when recovering a lost pet or conducting online business that requires an in-person meet-up.
- Watch for spoofed numbers - Scammers often, but not always, spoof phone numbers, so they appear to be calling from a local number.
- Microchip and tag your pet - Consider microchipping pets and make sure they always wear a collar with an identification tag
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