Ken Paxton
Consumer Protection

Lost Pet Scam

The Office of the Attorney General was contacted this week by the victim of a common "lost pet" scam. This person, who described herself as a 46-year-old, college educated homeowner and professional, advertized in the "Lost Animal" section of the newspaper in an effort to find her lost cat. She was contacted by an individual who had found her name in the ads. and convinced her that he had her cat. According to the victim, the scammer said he was a trucker on the road. She sent him money by Western Union, but it turned out he did not have the cat. The Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division confirms that unfortunately, this is a very common scam, and that Western Union Security Division reports this same scam against consumers three to five times every month. Con artists are often extremely persuasive and convincing, as evidenced by this recent victim's level of education. The victims, who are animal lovers willing to advertise in an effort to recover their lost pets, are vulnerable because they are distraught to begin with, then relieved, and anxious to see their lost cats and dogs. If you have advertised a lost pet, be aware that you could be the target of this scam, and if possible, do not pay anyone until you see your pet or make an effort to verify the identity of an animal that a caller claims to have in his possession. If you are the target or the victim of this kind of scam, or know someone who is, you should report it to your local law enforcement agency.

ABOUT CONSUMER ALERTS - The Office of the Attorney General accepts consumer complaints about businesses. When a pattern of complaints warrants intervention, the Attorney General can file a civil lawsuit under consumer protection statutes, sometimes with the result that a company is required to pay restitution to consumers -- see our Major Lawsuits page. However, when a consumer is swindled by a con artist, filing a complaint cannot help. Civil litigation can sometimes put a very unscrupulous business out of action, but often cannot produce restitution.

Individual con artists generally fall under the jurisdiction of a criminal prosecutor -- in Texas, this is the district or county attorney. But even when they are charged and convicted, these individuals usually have spent the money as fast as they have stolen it. A person who is the victim of fraud should report the incident to the police or sheriff. But by far the best thing is for consumers to be aware of fraud, so they are not swindled in the first place. For this reason, the Office of the Attorney General posts these Consumer Alerts about possible scams and schemes that come to our attention through citizen contacts to our office or other sources.