Another person contacted in missing-dog scam

Louisa Andrew and Alan Funnell were the victims of a hoax as they took their search for the...
Louisa Andrew and Alan Funnell were the victims of a hoax as they took their search for the missing dogs to the rest of the country. Another dog owner says she, too, has been contacted by the cash-seeking hoaxer. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
A hoax targeting a Dunedin couple still searching for their missing dogs may be part of a wider scam.

Alan Funnell and Louisa Andrew are still searching for their 9-year-old black poodle Dice and 3-year-old fox terrier cross Weed, which disappeared from their Otago Peninsula property on October 17 last year.

The couple were recently targeted in an apparent hoax or scam involving someone who, in a series of Facebook messages and phone calls, claimed to know who had their dogs. The messages came from an account under the name of "Sione Fatai", who, in a later phone call with the Dunedin couple, claimed to be a South Dunedin woman named Lesley.

There were no specific requests for money, but it was "insinuated", Mr Funnell told the Otago Daily Times last week.

A second woman who lost her dog, and was soon receiving messages from the same messenger account, subsequently contacted the ODT .

The woman, from Whangarei, said she had put "missing dog" posts up on social media seeking sightings of her 1-year-old Brussels Griffon. Within a few hours, a message arrived from Sione Fatai, initially claiming to have seen the dog, and later to have captured it.

"Then it was ‘now you can pay me some money into my bank account’," the woman said.

She asked for a photograph and was sent a poor-quality image later found to have been sourced from the internet, as well as a bank account number.

The person seemed to use information the owner previously posted online, she said.

Eventually, the hoaxer said her dog was "ill" and threatened to take it to vet to have it put down, telling her "your dog will die tonight".

The message-writer also appeared to be targeting other dog owners in search of missing pets around New Zealand.

They changed their Facebook Messenger account details daily, possibly to suit the area of whomever they were targeting in a scam that day, she said.

She suspected more than one person was involved.

A police spokeswoman confirmed a report about "suspicious contact made online in relation to a lost pet" had been received and was being "assessed".

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