20 Mar, 2023 @ 15:22
2 mins read

Heartless scammers are targeting lost dog owners in Spain’s Andalucia

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FOR animal lovers, there’s no worse nightmare than realising that your dog has run off – perhaps through an open front door or following a scent – and hasn’t come back to you.

Many distraught owners post ‘lost dog’ announcements on Facebook, hoping that a good Samaritan will find and return their four-legged friend. Sometimes, they offer cash rewards.

Sadly, in Andalucia, ruthless scammers are targeting traumatised people after seeing these announcements on Facebook.

Freddie And Freya 1
Lost Freddie pictured with Olive Press style expert, Freya. Photo: Jo Chipchase.

The reporter, who has recently lost her white, deaf dog, Freddie, received a random phone call from a man claiming to be from Malaga. He said he had been offered Freddie for 100 euros.

The man then repeated details that appeared in the advert – such as the date the dog was taken, the theft location, and that he was ‘totally white and deaf’.

He added: “Gypsies from Malaga have your dog and they are leaving for Seville in half an hour, so it’s important to transfer 100 euros so I can buy the dog and then meet you in Velez-Malaga or Guadix.” These are both, rather conveniently, a 1.5hr drive away.

When asked for a photo, the man said it was impossible to send one without buying the dog first, and that the vendor used a hidden mobile number, and could not be contacted for an image either.

When pushed, he sent a random photo of a similar white dog running around with a stick. This was almost certainly from Google Images.

Message2
Attempt to pass off Google Image as Freddie.

Apparently, this is a known and increasing fraud. A spate of similar incidents has recently been reported in the UK.

There are two other varieties of the scam. In one, criminals ask the distraught pet owner to repeat a code back to them, to ‘prove they are genuine’. This is, in fact, a Google-generated code, used to hack people’s accounts.

In the second, they claim to be a vet and say the dog is injured and needs emergency treatment, for which the owner must pay first.

Owners are so keen to retrieve their pet that, frequently, they provide compromising details – or sent funds – without thinking.

If you do lose a pet, leave some details about your animal unstated, so you can later use these to confirm identity – such as “Fido has a black spot on his belly”. Also, remember that vets and rescue centres will never ask you to send money before helping an animal.

Not losing the dog in the first place is clearly the best tactic.

Linda Raine, of Valle Verde Animal Rescue, says: “So many dogs are going missing at present. Please be careful if there’s a fiesta with fireworks in your area. Keep your dog inside or always in your sight. Put a nametag on their collar with your phone number. Obviously, dogs are chipped, but it’s easier for someone to call you directly if there’s a visible number.”

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Jo Chipchase

Jo Chipchase freelanced for internet and lifestyle publications in the UK, and for Living Spain magazine, and was co-founder of Press Dispensary. She lives in the Alpujarra mountains of Andalucia with her teenage sons, dogs and a horse. Contact [email protected]

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