If you have ever posted online trying to find your lost animal, you have probably spoken with “The Pet Rescue,” (also known as Search Pets and The Lost Pets Finder and others listed below.) This online company has been in business for many years calling people who have lost animals to sell them search services. They have been the subject of several news investigations.
UPDATE: Here is the latest news story on this scammer who pretends to be from legitimate organizations as well as his own shady businesses. You can hear his voice, so you will know if he calls.
The stories from lost animal owners are all similar. If you post your phone number on Craig’s List or on FaceBook, which you must do to find your lost animal, you may get a call from someone with a foreign accent who offers to find your dog for a price. Sometimes the caller says “The Pet Rescue” is calling, but recently the caller has started falsely claiming to represent specific FaceBook pages where people post lost dogs. (They call people who have lost any animal, not only dogs.) The call is often bewildering to someone who lost a dog and who cannot understand why someone is calling from a FaceBook page asking for money – because FaceBook pages are all free services. The response by “The Pet Rescue” is something like, “It is free, but you have to pay if you want your animal back.”
The calls come from all over the country. “The Pet Rescue,” is run by an Italian who is living in Brazil, but who has ties to Las Vegas, and who uses dozens of phone numbers from different area codes, all of which have connections to an older scam where people got calls telling them they had a computer virus. The scammer also spoofs phone numbers, so the number which appears on your display is not a complete phone number. For example, one number they use is 87581. If you call your phone company, they can tell you the actual number which called you. So if you see a number on your caller ID that is not a regulation length number, it is someone concealing their real phone number.
The company claims to contact all the rescues, shelters and veterinarians in your area for a fee. But “The Pet Rescue” can never provide you with a list of who was called. If you call around yourself to check, you will find no one was called.
For an additional amount, they claim to provide dozens of local rescuers to physically look for your dog. Setting aside the fact that this is a bad idea, because it could chase a lost dog further away, do you know any rescuers who have done this? Of course not! Your local rescuers will have never even heard of “The Pet Rescue.” There are no crews of local rescuers. But it appeals to people who do not understand how rescue works. They think they are paying to get animal lovers who will walk around until the dog is found. To make the deal more enticing, you are promised the return of your dog in four days or your money back! You will get neither.
One person got their dog back from their local shelter and tried to get a refund. That person was told that the shelter was supposed to the call “The Pet Rescue” when they picked up the dog, so no refund was due. “The Pet Rescue” representative went on to say they have agreements with every municipal shelter in the country. Afterall, they say on their site: “The Pet Rescue, since 2003 with its largest network of Veterinarians, Shelters, Rescue Groups, pet lovers, neighbourhood watch programs, over 65,000 participants, is providing unique nationwide support for lost pets families: the combined effort, is making the difference.” People in pet rescue, real rescuers, have never heard of this company which is supposedly a leader in rescue.
Like some other scammers, “The Pet Rescue” tries to shame people into paying. They tell distraught owners things like, “We only work with people who really want their animal back.” They are bullies who keep calling even when asked not to call again.
One person who did not want to pay was told his lost dog would be “barbecued.” The dog was missing, so it was not a real threat, but it was a cruel thing to say.
The owner was so angry he made a graphic (see above) and posted it on Craig’s List.
Scammers may never stop calling people who have lost animals trying to make money from their grief, but being forewarned makes it easier to hang up. If someone you know loses an animal, warn them to expect a call from this scammer.
Here are his sites. They are not identical, but all take your money and provide no service. Many have FaceBook sites too.
- [State Name] Pets Lost and Found (FaceBook)
If you were scammed, please contact me below. Federal and state officials are taking an interest.
If you have been contacted, I invite you to comment below. You can read more about “The Pet Rescue” scam here:
- Rescue Service Accused of Targeting Owners of Lost Pets
- Company uses Craigslist to swindle local people searching for lost pets
- Problem Solvers’ Investigation: Will “The Pet Rescue” bring your lost pet home?
- Craigslist scam targets owners of missing pets
- New Scam Preys On Owners Searching For Lost Pets
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