Online scams demanding bitcoin currency are far from unusual, but in a new stunt, scammers are preying upon the devoted owners of lost dogs in North Carolina.
On Sunday, Patricia Howell’s basset hound, Happy, went missing in Granville county. She immediately posted her phone number to Facebook, as well as on pet finder site, Pawboost.
Soon after, Howell received a threatening text message demanding $600 worth of bitcoin in exchange for the safe return of the lost dog — only one problem, Happy was already home.
The bitcoin scammer, who told Howell he was using a burner phone to avoid identification, claimed to have the lost basset hound. Howell would need to send the bitcoin ransom within five days, otherwise they would “sell it or kill it or whatever.”
“I knew it was a scam because I had Happy, but it was heartless and cold and it was so mean-spirited,” Howell told CBS 17.
Howell filed a report with Granville County Sheriff’s Office for investigation. While this was the first reported case of this particular scam he’d personally encountered, the sheriff told CBS 17 news that he was familiar with similar bitcoin scams around the country.
Howell and Happy weren’t the only ones in North Carolina to encounter the lost dog bitcoin scam. Fuquay-Varina county resident Raymond Brunet and his two lost dogs were also targeted by a similar scam.
After posting his contact information on Triangle Pet Lost & Found, Brunet received an almost identical text from a burner phone, demanding $2,000 worth of bitcoin or else his two lost dogs would be killed within 10 days.
Like Howell, Brunet had already found both of his dogs before the scammer sent the text.
“They need to find a better way to make money,” Howell told CBS 17 news. “They need to leave people alone and realize that what they’re doing is hurtful and so cruel.”