Scam sparks new warning for Florida pet owners

Florida animal control officials are warning owners of lost pets that they may be targeted by a scam that preys on their desperation to find their missing companions.

The Palm Beach County Department of Public Safety’s Animal Care and Control division (PCB ACC) alerted pet owners to the scam in a Facebook post on Tuesday. The scheme apparently involves phone calls that fraudulently attempt to convince locals that their lost pets have been found while demanding money for their safe return.

Scammers target the owners of missing pets somewhat frequently. Those who publicly share details about their lost pets and contact information online are particularly vulnerable.

“It has come to our attention that scammers are targeting owners of lost pets,” the post reads. “Someone is representing themselves as an employee of our shelter and trying to collect money. PBC ACC will never and ask for money over the phone.”

“Please do not transfer funds or share account/credit card numbers with anyone representing themselves as us,” it continues. “If you have a lost pet, please post your pet on our SNAP website and continue to check the website daily.”

A person is pictured stapling a “missing dog” poster to a tree in this undated file photo. Officials in Palm Beach County, Florida, this week warned the owners of missing pets that they may be…


In an additional Facebook post, public safety officials said that the targeted victims of the scam were “community members who post their information on lost pet websites” before receiving “calls from someone identifying themselves as an employee of ACC.”

Local ABC affiliate WPBF reported that some victims were targeted after sharing lost pet posts on the app Nextdoor. Scammers also reportedly targeted those who made similar posts on the Pawboost and Petco Love Lost websites and the Loxahatchee Lost and Found Facebook page.

Newsweek reached out for comment to PBC ACC via online contact form and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office via email on Wednesday night.

Palm Beach County’s “SNAP” website hosts a large number of listings for lost and found pets, primarily cats and dogs, alongside photos of the missing animals. The site also features a section listing unclaimed pets that have an “urgent” need for adoption.

Officials in Wake County, North Carolina, issued a similar scam alert last month, informing locals that someone was calling those with missing pets while claiming to be an employee of the Wake County Animal Center and demanding money for urgent pet surgery, according to The News & Observer.

Newsweek previously reported on a woman who said that she was targeted by a scammer who contacted her with claims of having found her missing husky. When she refused to pay $400 for the dog’s return, the scammer tried to extract money from the woman, who is straight, by threatening to expose an affair to her non-existent wife.