Mr Snuggles is Missing
Given the recent surge in dognapping cases, I thought this might provide an interesting take on how fraudsters and other criminals exploit the fact that our pets are regarded as members of the family.
En route to my local coffee shop, I was desperately trying to negotiate my way through the minefield of dog faeces on the pavement when I saw something tied to a nearby lamp post. As I got closer I could make out the face of what I would have to say looked like a very ugly small fluffy dog in the middle of a homemade poster.
The text below read 'Mr Snuggles is only 2 years old and he is my best friend. He ran out of our garden when he was frightened by a loud noise. He's now been missing for 3 days and I miss him lots and lots as he sleeps at the end of my bed and keeps my feet warm. He is a pedigree Crappypoo and very fluffy. Can you please check your garages and sheds in case he is in there. If you find her, please ring my mummy on 07*** ******* and she will give you a reward. It was signed in crayon by 'Alyssia' (Aged 3 and a half).
Alyssia's sentence construction for a 3 year-old appeared remarkable, but I quickly realised that mummy had probably provided some editorial support. Mr Snuggles was clearly a very loved dog and as I got closer to the coffee shop I passed another 3 identical posters. Alyssia had been busy and was very keen to get him back.
I imagine that mummy had decided to write the poster from the perspective of her daughter to pull on the heart strings of those who bothered to read it. I'm sure that it was also a good idea to involve her daughter in the search for Mr Snuggles so she could say that at least she 'did her bit' if the late Mr Snuggles was later found deeply embedded in the tread of a tyre of a Heavy Goods Vehicle.
Mummy had the best of intentions, however, she made 2 fundamental errors; (1) Including her 3 year-old daughter in the campaign to find the dog and (2) disclosing the fact that Mr Snuggles is a good, young example of an expensive breed. These errors have made her very vulnerable to extortion from scammers as they now know that they have two very obvious buttons to press in order to blackmail mummy.
Soon, Mummy receives a text (from the scammer's burner phone)
Scammer 'Hi mummy - how much is the reward for Mr Snuggles?'
Mummy 'Have you got him? Is he ok?'
Scammer 'He is fine, just a bit frightened. How much is the reward?'
Mummy 'How does £20 sound?'
Scammer 'It sounds as if you don't care about him or your daughter's feelings. Try again'
Scammer 'I've clearly misjudged you. I thought you loved Alyssia. Can you imagine how she will feel when Mr Snuggles dismembered body turns up on your doorstep in a shoebox?'
Mummy 'How much do you want?'
Scammer ' 'I want £1,000 in £20 notes - text me back when you have the money ready'
Mummy 'Are you joking?'
Scammer 'Think about it. A new Crappypoo puppy will cost you about the same money, plus the fact Alyssia might not like the new dog. Also, think of the look in her eyes if she found out you could have got Mr Snuggles back but were just too tight'
Mummy 'I'm going to call the Police'
Scammer 'Good luck with that. Mr Snuggles dies tonight and you will never hear from us again until the shoe box appears'
Mummy 'Wait - OK. I will get the money by this time tomorrow.
Scammer 'If we see any sign of Old Bill when we pick up the cash - Mr Snuggles gets it'
Mummy 'Don't worry - I won't tell anyone'
Scammer ' Once we have the cash I will text you within the hour so you can pick him up safe and well. By tomorrow night he will be back on Alyssia's bed.
Mummy races around cashpoint machines and empties her gin fund in order to put the £1,000 together. She puts it inside a white carrier bag and waits. She gets a text instructing her to go to a multi storey car park in town and place the package into a particular waste bin. She does as she is told and returns home to await instructions to allow her to reunite Alyssia and Mr Snuggles. She waits .............and waits............and waits.
What she doesn't realise is that the scammer never had Mr Snuggles - ever. By simply taking advantage of the information that mummy put on the poster she might as well have said, 'Posh mummy wanting to please her little darling at almost any cost - come and take advantage of my naivety'.
In an earlier post 'Supply and Demand' I discussed the dangers of making decisions with your heart and not your head. There are obvious similarities with this and the 'lost pet' scenario' described above. I'm not suggesting that mummy should have first demanded 'proof of life' regarding the eponymous canine, however, a more judiciously worded poster avoiding mention of a tearful 3 year old might have been a better idea. Don't get me wrong, some high value pets are the subject of kidnap and ransom demands, however, they are few and far between and you can bet Mr Snuggles fluffy backside that the dognappers won't be responding to a homemade poster on a lamp post.