Scammers target Long Island families asking for help finding lost pets on social media
NEW YORK -- Unscrupulous scammers are preying on emotions and targeting pet owners desperate to find their missing cat or dog.
Recently, two Long Island families got caught up in the plot on social media.
Coco, a 6-year-old toy poodle, has been missing from her home in Williston Park since August.
"She's the sweetest dog. She loves people. That's why I know someone grabbed her," said Coco's owner Cristina Teehan.
The heartbroken family searched in vein, then reached out to a professional pet tracker.
"She was like, 'You have to get Coco's face out there on social media and the way that people can reach us is by my phone number,'" said Teehan.
Pet scammers read posts about Coco and texted the Teehans, claiming to have found their missing pooch.
"Somebody found her ... and we responded and they were like, 'We're going to send you a link and then you'll send us a verification code back,'" said Teehan.
Meantime, the distraught McElroy family of Malverne also posted on social media, begging for help to find their missing orange tabby.
"My cat is named Patrick. He's almost 3. We got him at the beginning of COVID as a kitten," said Lee Crawford McElroy.
Scammers texted back, claiming to have Patrick.
"I said where? And the person responded back, 'Well first you need to send me a code,'" said McElroy.
Adam Schwam of Sandwire Technology Group said the code is part of a scam.
"It's completely about vulnerability and extortion," said Schwam. "They can get into your account, they change your password, and then also change the telephone number for the two-factor authentication."
Once locked out, the goal is to extort money.
To prevent pet owners from falling victim to the scam, the Better Business Bureau warns against publicly posting phone numbers and other personal information.
"If you're going with your emotions, you're gonna say yeah I'll do whatever I can to get my animal back," said McElroy.
"They're very persistent. We've gotten so many of these text messages," said Teehan. "I would say at least 100."
Gratefully, neither family fell for the scam.
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