If you lose your four-legged friend, you typically look around your neighborhood first and then try to find him or her by reaching out to your local animal shelter or posting fliers. A lot of folks also head online to popular internet sites and ask people to contact them if they've seen their furry family members.
But beware of the latest scheme where an impersonator contacts lost cat owners claiming he has their pets. I talked to a Colorado Springs woman whose black cat named Torino disappeared from the grounds of the Air Force Academy. She tells me she posted information about her missing cat in several places online and was contacted by a fraudster who saw her information on Craigslist.
Someone claiming to be "Williams" said he worked at Wild Blue Animal Rescue and Sanctuary in Black Forest, which is not true. He asked the Colorado Springs cat owner to provide two pictures as proof, as well as personal information in a questionnaire. Torino's owner knew better but was upset her hopes of finding her cat were raised by a crook.
The small, volunteer-run nonprofit also is a victim in this impersonation scam. Kate Scheer, an executive assistant with Wild Blue said she's heard from 14 people around the country with lost cats. Kate told me, "There's nothing more heartbreaking than to call these individuals back and say, 'Yes, this is a scam. This person does not have your beloved pet.' And they were all very polite and understanding but you could just hear how heart-wrenching that news was." Kate said, "It would be devastating if people thought we were trying to scam folks. We're not. All we're trying to do is find homes for these kitties."
Here's an example of one of the text messages that a lost cat owner received: "This is about your missing cat MISSING LONG ORANGE AND WHITE HAIR CAT (Southside)." Then, "My name is Williams, I work with Wild Blue pet rescue. can I have your email address. we have a questionnaire that you will have to fill and provide us with two pics as prove that the cat is yours."
Some were tipped off by the spelling and grammatical errors. Others who live in Texas, California, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Pennsylvania doubted that their felines could make their way from those states to Colorado. The phone number used by "Williams" is an Ohio number, (216) 508-0620. My calls to the number were not answered or returned.
Preying on those who are already suffering is despicable. Just remember, crooks don't discriminate. They'll target anyone they see as an easy mark. They don't care if it's someone who has lost a beloved member of the family, a young teenager looking for a job, or a senior worried about a virus on their computer. These days you can't assume those who reach out to you have good intentions. Listen to your gut instinct and if you're suspicious, think before you act. To protect yourself from identity theft, never give a stranger any personal information. If you have any doubts, call us. Our 11 Call for Action volunteers can be reached at (719) 457-8211.