Dortch, a 40-year-old mother of two teenage girls in Dallas, Texas, told BuzzFeed News she set up a Facebook page in a desperate search for their two-year-old Chihuahua, who went missing from her husband’s parent’s home in Frisco, Texas in late February.
“Hoping and praying for a sighting or a call. Or something. Anything,” Dortch wrote in a post the week Maisy went missing.
Dortch said she insisted the person describe her dog, but they became defensive and launched into a text tirade calling her names and threatening to hurt the animal, she said.
“I felt very violated,” she said, adding that she briefly considered engaging the person in hopes that they had Maisy. “You know you miss your animal so much you would do anything for the return of your beloved pet.”
“Deep down, in my heart, yes I’m crushed that a person out there is preying on individuals,” said Dortch. “I’m not any more special than any other person who has been upset or overturned by this guy’s shenanigans.”
Scammers scour social media targeting people who posted that their beloved pet is missing, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in a statement on Wednesday. They then contact the person and demand money in return for the pet. Others have reported that the scammer claims to need money to cover transportation costs. But they don’t have the pet at all.
“Many of us treat our pets like family members, so when one goes missing, our hearts break,” said Rutledge. “It is shameful that these criminals would take advantage of someone suffering through the loss of a pet.“
Rogers, a 25-year-old student in Collegedale, Tennessee, had been searching for Sam for about eight months after he heard that she may have been adopted out at a local animal shelter. He posted on Craigslist and social media looking for help to find Sam.
He had to put his dog up for adoption after his rent increased and he couldn’t find another place that allowed dogs. The family who took Sam then gave her up at an animal shelter while he was out of the country on a short school trip.
“Hey I think I have your dog,” read a text Rogers received. “I don’t have a camera phone I’m 57 years old every one in my family called me and said some guy is desperately looking for the dog I got lol.”
Rogers immediately filed a police report about the scammer.
“He knew what he was doing,” said Rogers. “He plays on people wanting to find their pets.”
Walley, a two-and-a-half-year-old beagle mix, escaped the family’s home in the countryside of Moore, Oklahoma in March.
“I think I have your dog,” the scammer wrote. “I don’t have a camera phone I’m 57 years old.”
Vinson, 48, eagerly texted her husband that someone had found their family dog. Her husband, however, suspected something sinister was going on and searched the number online. He discovered a Facebook page of other lost pet owners who had been scammed by the same number.
The family adopted Walley from a neighbor 10 years after their previous dog had been shot by another neighbor.
She said that losing Walley was “like going through a death” only to feel some false sense of hope by a scammer that he may have been found.
“I had to go through a loss all over again,” she said. “I don’t understand why people would do that.”