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Calgary pup’s mysterious disappearance, hefty reward prompt scam warning – Global News

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The mysterious case of a missing pup has animal advocates sounding the alarm about offering rewards and ever-growing pet scams.
Valentino, or Tino for short, went missing Friday from Elbow Drive and 29th Avenue Southwest Friday night.
“He just escaped out of the open door accidently,” owner Megan Ramessar told Global News. “We think he got spooked.”
The family quickly started a search for the nine-month-old Italian greyhound and thought they had found him after being approached by an unknown man.
“‘Oh, are you looking for the dog?’” Ramessar said her husband was asked. “‘We just caught him.’”
The man reportedly went on to tell him a woman had taken Tino to her house and she would contact them.
The family has put a lot of effort into finding their dog, but told Global News Monday that Tino was still missing.
“We put up posters everywhere and we knocked door to door that night. We assumed someone would call us the next day, but nobody has reached out,” Ramessar said. “Maybe somebody thought he was so cute they wanted to keep him, maybe they want to sell him. We just don’t know.
“We’re offering $1,000 for a reward with no questions asked. We just want him home.”
The family posted about Tino’s disappearance on several social media sites, including YYC Pet Recovery, a non-profit that helps reunite missing pets with their owners.
One of the group’s senior administrators, Sheila Nixon, told Global News offering a reward for a lost pet can work well or it can backfire.
“When you post a reward — a substantial reward — that can attract more local scammers,” Nixon said.
Nixon added a local number and address can give locally-based fraudsters the opportunity to actually meet with you to collect the cash, potentially leading to dangerous situations.
“They (may) be looking to meet with you in an area that is not safe,” she said. “Losing money is not good, but a potential threat to your physical health of course is worse.”
The group suggests the two sides meet in well-lit, public places such as police stations or vet clinics and not in parking lots. It also suggests never handing over any money until you have your pet in hand.
YYC Pet Recovery is reporting a rise in overall pet scams. Nixon said pet scams have been significantly growing, both in number and sophistication.
One of the top cons right now involves a text message.
There are various versions of the text message that the person receives, but it might say that the person texting has found the pet or that they are animal services, but they require the owner to send back a “code” and which the scammer uses.
Another scam involves the offer of fake pet tracking services. They are not local but say they can reverse-engineer the microchip to locate the missing pet if the owner sends them money.
Nixon said to the best of their knowledge, that is not possible.
Nixon pointed out most of the scams revolve around money and the threat that if the owner does not hand it over, harm will come to the animal.
“‘If I don’t get money, your pet is dead,’” she said owners are often told. “‘And you won’t ever see it again.’”
Tino’s family said they know they may be setting themselves up for some sort of scam, but added so far, they haven’t been asked for any money.
They’re just hoping the $1,000 reward will motivate the people they believe have him to return him.
“Please, please do the right thing and bring him home,” Ramessar pleaded. “He’s not abandoned. It was an accident he got out and we really miss him.
“We really, really just want him home.”
Tino is microchipped and his information can be accessed at any vet office.
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