B.C. woman whose cat went missing warns of scammer claiming to have found it

Click to play video: 'B.C. woman warns of missing pet scam'
B.C. woman warns of missing pet scam
WATCH: A woman on Vancouver Island is warning other pet owners of a scam that's targeting those who have missing pets. Kylie Stanton reports – Sep 21, 2023

A Victoria woman is warning others about possible scammers after her cat went missing and she sent money to someone who claimed to have found it, but lied.

Jacqui Loughton’s five-year-old feline, Georgie, disappeared on Sunday night.

“She must have slipped out when we put the dogs out,” the pet owner told Global News.

Loughton said she and her family put posters up around the neighbourhood and canvassed passersby, hoping to locate the beloved furry friend. The posters contained all the information to contact the family, in case Georgie was found.

The next morning, Loughton said she got a text that read, “Hi, I know where your cat is.”

Click to play video: 'The prevalence of self-scanning scams'
The prevalence of self-scanning scams

When Loughton asked where, the texter replied that a good friend had actually found the cat and would not provide other details, such as that friend’s address.

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After few more texts back and forth, Loughton said she became suspicious.

“I said, ‘I’m going to call the police,’ and they said, ‘Go ahead.'”

Because the texter said someone else had the cat and didn’t actually ask for any money, police reportedly told Loughton that the exchange fell just short of what’s required in order to obtain a warrant.

“I would say they knew what they were doing,” Loughton said.

Click to play video: 'Consumer Matters: Rental scams on the rise in Canada'
Consumer Matters: Rental scams on the rise in Canada

Lesli Steeves, co-founder of Victoria’s ROAM — Reuniting Owners with Animals Missing — called Loughton’s experience “really frustrating.” She said ROAM receives between 20 and 30 found pet scams every day.

“We say, ‘Okay,  thank you. Can you send a picture?'” she said of the group’s typical response.

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“Then they ask us to send them a six-digit code of some kind, or they’re going to send us a code and we’ll send a code back to them — so, you know immediately then, that something is going sideways.”

Click to play video: 'Cat and coyote face off in Burnaby yard'
Cat and coyote face off in Burnaby yard

While this specific scam has not yet been reported to the Better Business Bureau in B.C., the non-profit consumer support organization said it’s well aware of it.

It said scammers are targeting pet owners at their most vulnerable.

“They’re looking for any way to find an ‘in,’  and so, this is the ‘in’ for them,” explained Simone Lis, president and CEO.

“You have to protest yourself … to make sure that you’re dealing with someone who is legitimate.”

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Stowaway cat discovered at YVR in box from China

Despite the ordeal, Loughton said she’s not giving up on finding Georgie — and instead, is doubling down on the search. She’s working with ROAM while looking for the cat independently as well.

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“It would mean everything,” Loughton said of recovering Georgie.

“We need that part of our family back. It’s not whole without her.”

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