A seemingly well-intentioned post about a lost puppy shared locally on social media has been identified as a scam running throughout the province and beyond.
Originally shared under the name Nicky Tim, the same post has gone up at least 30 times on Facebook buy and sell groups in the Okanagan-Shuswap, as well as groups in Edmonton and Airdrie, Alta. The posts also appears in a ‘Sydney yard sale’ group in Nova Scotia. It features a different dog, but the wording and request of the post is the same.
While the posts don’t include any specific requests besides to ‘bump’ the post to try and reunite dog and owner, there are several scam possibilities.
Concerned resident Mandy Toner has heard of similar stories in which the scam poster will reply to people who are interested in adopting the dog if the original owners aren’t found, and will request a ‘re-homing fee’ for their involvement in the adoption. Once the online deposit is made, the Facebook post and the scammer will disappear.
Another route scammers may take will be to get an email address from concerned users and try to log in with that email, then asking for the prompted code that lets you change your password. If a person is concerned enough about their internet safety or not very knowledgeable, they may send the code. Scammers will also send a link that asks for access through your Facebook account or associated email, and while it looks legitimate, Facebook doesn’t send this kind of two-factor authentication through private messages.
This trick can be used whenever there is direct communication online but this particular scam is targeting animal lovers.
Meranda Dussault, centre manager at the BC SPCA Shuswap Community Animal Centre, said the rescue has not had any strange lost dog reports come in, and definitely none that match the photos in the scammer’s posts. However, she knows that scams run rampant online and reminds people to contact the SPCA or another animal rescue if they need help with a lost pet. These organizations work with professionals and have networks in place to reunite owners and pets and of course to find abandoned animals new homes.
“Don’t engage in social media posts that offer very little information and are generic in nature,” is Dussault’s advice.
“Never give out your personal information, no matter how passionate you feel about the animal that has been posted. Scammers are often creative thinkers and know how to pull on your heart strings.”
Never give out personal information, send money, or arrange to meet someone from online who you don’t know in person. If a post looks suspicious in any way, including if comments are turned off or the person’s profile has little to no information on it, do not engage and report the account.