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Some scammers use lost pet posts on Facebook to take advantage of well-intentioned people

Posted at 7:40 PM, Jul 03, 2023

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Five years ago, Lisa Thurber lost a beloved dog while fireworks rang for Independence Day.

She knows more than most that emotions can be high when searching for lost pets. Now, she helps with capturing lost dogs and the "Lost Pets of Omaha Area" Facebook page.

So, she said it's "sick," "sad," and "pathetic" that scammers use the emotions of lost pets to drive eyes to their plot.

Some involve injured dogs. Someone claims to have hit the dog and be looking to return the pet.

Here's how it works, according to the Better Business Bureau. Facebook users see a post like the injured dog being returned home, for example, and share it. Once it goes viral, the post is edited to include a malicious link or service. It comes in various forms, some including missing children, too.

When edited, the post might change significantly, BBB says, to a cash prize for a survey or a great deal on a rental property. It'll be something that makes you want to click on something dangerous.

The Lost Pets of Omaha Area page only posts on behalf of people looking for pets, eliminating the threat of this scam, Thurber said. But not all pages work that way.

But on the other end of the link could be an attempt to get information about you, including malware, says Thor Schrock, president and founder of local computer tech company Schrock Innovations.

He said it's important to have a good antivirus software.

"If you don't have that, then you have to be a little careful," he said. "I would recommend, on Facebook, you just do not click links."

He said viruses take two forms, sometimes they stay silent and work in the background, or they aim for the user to take frantic action. He says many view phones and tablets as not needing protection, but they do.

A good indicator that a post is fake is that the user has no other activity. The BBB shared these tips:

  • Do a bit of digging before resharing a post on your profile. Read the information carefully and look at the profile of the person who created and shared the original post. If the profile is from Florida but shared the post in a Canadian group, it may be a red flag of a bait-and-switch publication.
  • Find out when the poster created the Facebook profile. Scammers always create profiles when their old one gets banned. If you click on their profile, it will tell you how long they have been a member of the group. You can also find additional information on their public profile.
  • You should see it in the news. If a child goes missing or a tragedy occurs, you'll most likely see it on different news outlets or shared by law enforcement, not on a random post. 
  • Do a reverse image search on Google. That will allow you to find out if the pictures you saw were used on other ads or websites in different cities. 
  • Find similar posts. Copy and paste the text from the post into Facebook's search tool to see if other posts with the same text and different pictures show up.
  • If you suspect a post is a scam, report it to Facebook.

Scams can be reported to the BBB here.

Thurber also said a scam offering to return lost dogs when payment is received is all too common.

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