Do you own a dog? Be careful. Scammers are on the prowl disguised as animal control officers. A clever fraudster recently infiltrated a Florida retirement community and stole $550 from an elderly couple in this devious new pet scam.
The scammer carried a phony badge, fake ID, business cards, and appeared so official that the gated community let him pass unquestioned. Then, citing alleged complaints from neighbors, the scammer told his victims to pay $550 immediately or he’d be forced to take their dog.
Here’s more information about this fake animal control officer scam and what you need to know to protect yourself and your four-legged friends:
Scammer Impersonates Officer, Cites Fake Complaints
Late last month, officials at the gated Valencia Shores retirement community in Lake Worth, Florida, were approached by the man who claimed to be an animal control officer.
The scammer drove a white truck and represented himself as an officer with an “independent company for animal care and control.” He had arrived to address alleged complaints regarding two residents’ dog.
As WPTV reports:
“He had a badge, had an ID, gave us a business card and represented himself completely as being part of an independent company for animal care and control,” community homeowner’s association president] Abe Fenster said.
Investigators say the imposter came to cite a resident for neighborhood complaints about their dog. He allegedly demanded $550 or else he’d take the elderly couple’s dog.
Believing their dog was at risk, the seniors didn’t question the man and simply paid up.
The victims were likely targeted due to their age. Scammers exploit the fact that elderly people are less likely to question a perceived authority figure, especially when they live in a gated community and the “official” is waved inside by security.
Add the threat of someone taking away a furry family member and victims will be easily persuaded to hand over their cash.
Authorities obtained surveillance footage from the Valencia Shores’ office as well as the fake animal control officer’s name and driver’s license, so investigators are hopeful that they will arrest the suspect before he scams another victim.
Protect Yourself from an Animal Control Scam: Know Your Rights!
Protect yourself and your family from this scam by knowing your rights.
Although animal control laws vary by state and county, pets are considered property and an animal control officer cannot legally remove your dog without a judge’s order.
Even if you’re violating city noise ordinances or leash laws, an animal control officer will cite you — not take your dog.
As Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control Operations manager David Walesky told WPTV:
“If anybody comes to your house and says give me money I’m from the county. I’m going to take your dog. That’s not us. That’s not what we do.”
If someone approaches you, claims to be any kind of law enforcement officer, and demands money, don’t pay unless you can verify their identity.
A real law enforcement officer won’t require you to pay any citation on the spot. If they become belligerent or threatening in any way, or display other suspicious behavior, call your local police station right away.
What Do You Think?
Have you ever received citations from animal control? What would you do if someone threatened to take your dog? Tell us what you think in the comments.
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