Word to the Wise: Lost pet scams — are you at risk?

A lost pet is a devastating experience but the BBB warns pet owners to be wary of scammers that defraud heartbroken pet owners who have publicly advertised the loss of a pet. The advertisement can help you get your pet returned but it can also open you up to potential scams. Below are some of the more common scams that target pet owners.

The pay-me-first scam: In this scam the pet owner receives a phone call from a person claiming that they have the lost pet in their possession. This person asks that the reward money be sent to them before they return the pet. If the pet owner refuses, they will often threaten to hurt the pet in order to pressure the pet owner into sending money. Once the scammer receives the money, they are never heard from again.

The truck driver scam: Someone claiming to be a long-haul truck driver tells you that he came across your pet while on his route. He then asks you to send him money so that he can send your pet back to you, or he may ask you to wire him money to board your pet until he can send your pet back with another truck driver who’s heading your way.

The tag team scam: You receive a call from someone who says that they think they have your pet. After talking to you for a while and getting information about your pet, they apologize and say that they’re sorry, but it turns out that it’s not your pet after all. They then give all the information about your pet to a partner. This is a set-up -- in a short time, the scammer uses the information received about your pet only to have a second person call, claiming to have found your pet to try and collect any reward money in advance.

The airline ticket scam: In this scam, someone calls and claims that your pet somehow ended up in another state. They ask you to send money for a kennel and an airline ticket and they’ll ship your pet back. Once the pet owner sends the money, the scammer walks away with it, leaving the owner without their pet and less money in their bank account.

Pet flipping scam: This scam works by the scammer stealing pets or claiming lost pets for the sole purpose of selling them to unsuspecting buyers. Flyers and classified ads looking for a pet’s owner can have the unintended consequence of alerting a scammer to a money making opportunity.

BBB provides the following tips to prevent falling victim to a pet loss scam:

If you must place an ad, include only essential information. Refrain from providing information about unique markings or physical attributes. This can be used to verify the real owner.

If you get a call from someone who claims to be out-of-state, ask them for a phone number where you can call them back. Scammers typically do not want you to know any of their personal information.

If a caller claims to have your pet in their possession, ask them to describe something about the pet that wouldn’t be visible in pictures, which may have been posted. You can also ask them to send a current picture of the pet for you to review.

Never wire money or use a prepaid debit card to pay anyone you don’t know. This is a common thread in many types of scams.

Always ask for registration paperwork and a bill of sale when purchasing a new pet.

Consider having your veterinarian implant an identification microchip into your pet to increase your recovery chances.

For more tips, visit

Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia and the CSRA Inc., serving 41 counties in Middle Georgia and the Central Savannah River area.