YOUNGSVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – Con artists are scouring social media sites looking for families who lost their pets. One Youngsville woman almost fell victim to the scam. 

On Sunday, Patricia Howell’s basset hound Happy went missing.

She posted her contact information to social media, asking for help. She didn’t expect someone to demand hundreds of dollars in bitcoin in exchange for the safe return of her dog.

“I knew it was a scam because I had Happy, but it was heartless and cold and it was so mean-spirited,” Howell said.

Howell had posted her phone number on Facebook, as well as a pet finder site called Pawboost. Howell said she never imagined someone would use it to demand ransom for her lost dog.

“It told me I needed to send $600 in bitcoin to a bitcoin address. Otherwise, they would sell or kill Happy,” she said.

The scammer then told Howell he was texting her from a burner phone, so she couldn’t trace him.

“It said the police can’t help you,” Howell said of the text message.

Howell filed a report with the Granville County Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff said the scam is being investigated. He said he’s heard of similar cases across the country, but this is the first report he’s had. 

“They need to find a better way to make money,” Howell said. “They need to leave people alone and realize that what they’re doing is hurtful and so cruel.”