A scammer claiming to be in possession of a dog texted the dog’s owner that he would “sell it or kill it or whatever” if he didn’t receive USD 600 of Bitcoin within five days. Upon payment, it was said that the texter would leave the dog, named Happy, at a pet store with the owner’s contact information.
The owner, Patricia Howell, had earlier posted on Facebook and Pawboost that her basset hound had gone missing. This is likely where the scammer got her contact information. The scammer claimed to use a burner phone, making him/her untraceable.
Much like a burner phone is an anonymous version of a cell phone, Bitcoin is the pseudo-anonymous version of currency. No identity or location information is required to transact Bitcoin, only a Bitcoin address which consists of a long string of letters and numbers. This is unlike most other payment methods like Western Union and banks which can’t be used without providing identifying information. The scammer, in this case, chose Bitcoin.
Fortunately, Howell had already recovered her dog minutes before receiving the texts from the scammer, thanks to a tip on a community Facebook page. Due to the timing, she didn’t have to worry if there was any truth to the texts, but was upset about the scammer’s cold, and mean-spirited demand. Her outrage prompted her to report the incident to her local police department.
The Granville County sheriff is investigating this incident, and says he’s aware of similar cases across the county but this is the first official police report he’s had involving a Bitcoin ransom. Indeed, just this past week another Bitcoin ransom made headlines when 15 Bitcoins were demanded for the return of a kidnapped South African boy.
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