A cat charity has warned animal lovers of “deplorable” scammers after a Coventry woman was the victim of a £700 cat scam.
Boldy has been missing since the end of December, leaving owner Lilyana and her children devastated.
But the family from Keresley thought a miracle had happened six weeks later when a local veterinary clinic called saying Boldy had been brought to them by an elderly couple who had found him and looked after him.
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Lilyana was told she could come and collect their beloved pet, but would need to pay £5 for an examination which she was happy to do.
However, when off the phone her instincts told her something wasn’t right, so she googled the clinic Boldy was supposed to have been taken to and gave them a call.
They had no record of the cat, or a call being made.
Moments later Lilyana had a call from her bank, saying someone had tried to buy something online costing a whopping £669.99 and her suspicions were confirmed.
Lilyana was well aware of the risk of giving her card details out, but the scammers sounded professional, were well drilled and knew her name, address, the cat’s name and the fact it was missing – not your usual opportunist calling 100 numbers a day until they find someone with a missing cat.
Lilyana has a potential theory.
She told CoventryLive: “I think they have taken my cat and have a scanner of some kind to find the details from his chip and then used the information to contact me and try to scam me – I don’t have any other rational explanation for how they have my details.”
Explaining what happened when she got the call last Thursday (3 February) Lilyana continued: “I had a call from an unknown number. The person that called me confirmed my address details and my telephone number from my cat’s chip.
“They gave me the name of the road where he was found, and that an old couple had been looking after my cat for the last two weeks.
“He informed me that the cat will be transferred to a Vet clinic so that he will be examined and that I had to pay a £5 fee on which I agreed and with a smile on my face – I thought we had found Boldy and I even told my kids.
“Straight after the conversation I called the clinic and I found out that my cat is not there and they have not heard of it. They told me it’s not an isolated incident and that they would never ask for money in this way.
“Then ten minutes later I received a call from my bank to ask for authorization for payment of £669.99. I looked at the website it was for coats – they were trying to buy a hoody!”
Sadly Boldy is still missing, but the fact the scammers knew so much information hints there could be something slightly more sinister at play than just fraud.
Lilyana said: “I believe that my cat was probably stolen and that these people have a scanner to pick up the details from the cat’s chip and scam you – how else could they have got my details? I don’t use my real name on social media and never share my information.”
As a warning to other animal lovers, she added: “Keep your pets safe and if you are in my situation with an animal missing from home be on guard.”
Charity Cats Protection confirmed Boldy’s case is not unusual and that scammers are using pet owners and they trust they have in their vets.
A spokesman for Cats Protection said: “This is a deplorable abuse of the trust we have for veterinary professionals who safeguard the health and wellbeing of our pets. Sadly this is not an isolated case and we have also been alerted to instances of fraudulent phone calls being made to the owners of missing cats by people claiming to be from animal welfare groups.
“We would like to assure the public that neither vets nor animal welfare organizations like Cats Protection will charge release fees nor request money in relation to missing or found cats.
“We would advise caution when posting personal details online in relation to lost cats as they may be used for unscrupulous reasons.
Ensuring your cat is microchipped is another way to prevent such fraudulent activities. Vets will check stray cats for a microchip in order to ascertain their identity. If the caller is unable to quote your cat’s unique microchip number, you will know they do not have your cat.”
Cats Protection has compiled a check list of actions to take when your cat goes missing, which is available at www.cats.org.uk/lost-a-cat. It also advises anyone who receives a potentially fraudulent call not to give out any details but to report it to the police using 101 or by visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk
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