The pitch: "I found your lost dog!"
The scam: A phone call from someone who reports finding a beloved pooch is usually cause for celebration. But Western Union warns that it could be a cruel scam. The company has received reports from owners of lost dogs who say they've been called by people identifying themselves as truckers. The dog, a supposed trucker says, was found along a highway.
How it works: The driver says there was no time to get the dog home because of a tight delivery schedule. Now the truck is across the country, but the trucker offers to put the dog on a flight. All you have to do is wire money for the fare. Or sometimes the trucker will also say the dog was injured, and request additional money to cover vet bills.
The outcome: You show up at the airport to meet the flight, but your dog doesn't arrive. The con artist had gotten your number off a "lost dog" poster or advertisement and never had the pet at all. The nearly surefire way to tell this was a scam was that the money had to be wired -- that makes it easy for the fraudster to pick it up and hard for you to trace it.
Advice: Western Union suggests that anyone who is phoned long distance by a person claiming to have found a lost pet ask questions about the animal that are outside the scope of what was on a poster or in an ad. In any case, always be wary if a stranger requests funds be sent by wire.
Info: Full text of the company's warning is at www.westernunion.com/pdf/FoundYourDog.pdf.
-- David Colker