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Lost pet scams: Plea to find five missing dogs was perfect bait for suspected scammers

A pet owner's bittersweet reunion and the scam attempts that prolonged the search for her pups
Plea to find five missing dogs was perfect bait for suspected scammers
Posted at 12:39 PM, Feb 28, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-01 12:06:04-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — January 7 this year quickly turned from a normal day to a nightmare for Kim Coons.

She and her husband came home from work where they were usually met with happy barks and wagging tails.

“The quiet was very scary," Coons said. "We knew something was wrong.”

Their five dogs — Pumba, Biggie Smalls, Boba, Hera and Magnus — were missing.

The back gate's hinges were broken, kicked in by someone in the alley who also seemingly held the door open for the bigger dogs to escape.

"That was the only way they could’ve gotten out,” Coons explained.

Then the big chase began.

Coons immediately turned to social media, posting on Nextdoor and the Tucson Lost and Found Pets Facebook page.

Community members sent in tips, catching the pups on door cameras and snapping pictures around the neighborhood.

Pumba, Boba and Biggie were found safe after a few days, but Magnus was missing for nearly two weeks.

"There was about 12 other people out there looking at the same time. All strangers, all friends now," Coons said.

"They had all been following the story since day one. It’s kindness...that you never knew existed until you really needed it.”

He even earned his own Facebook page, Team Magnus Tucson.

One helper filmed their emotional reunion:

Magnus' was riddled with cactus needles, his paws were raw and swollen, and he had lost 20 pounds in the 12 days he was gone.

He came home and slept for nearly a whole day.

Coons said she also thinks he fought with another animal due to the healing lacerations on his face. But he still seemed to do well tapping into his wild side.

"He had learned to howl like a coyote. That was pretty awesome," she laughed. "I think that's how he survived, [he] was trying to fit in. He doesn't really look like a coyote but if he could sound like one, I think they accepted him."

Although good Samaritans helped in the search, others were not so kind. Coons' plea for help was the perfect bait for suspected scammers who preyed on her vulnerable situation.

She constantly had to filter through scam messages — up to 200 hundred a day.

“Those of us who have been through the trauma of having a missing dog, you are at their mercy, everybody’s mercy," she noted. "So even the people who are trying to scam you, you’re just like, ‘What do I need to do?’”

Some sent texts, claiming they had her dogs while others were more persistent with confirmation codes and links.

Agencies like the Better Business Bureau and Pima County Sheriff's Department don’t see a lot of these types of scams, but they’ve heard of them.

Detective Michael Wilson in the sheriff's fraud unit says that’s because they go unreported.

“You can facilitate a lot of this stuff from overseas. All you really need is a phone," he explained. "That doesn’t make prosecution impossible. It makes it a little more difficult, but not impossible.”

Wilson suggests contacting the Pima County Animal Care Center (PACC) for assistance with a lost pet, and limiting personal information posted online - including rewards.

“Rewards can sometime incentivize a lot of folks to help us out, but they can also attract people who might not have our best interest at hand,” he said.

Coons was able to identify the red flags early with help from her job in IT — she was one of the lucky ones.

Her dogs are happy to be home, but the family feels incomplete.

The fifth dog, Hera, was struck by a car crossing the street in front of the Coons' home.

“It’s just been too hard," Coons said through tears. "We’ll be able to mourn her, but right now, it just focusing on Magnus and getting the rest of the pack back to normal.”

You can file a scam report locally with the fraud unit at the Pima County Sheriff's Department.

Other agencies:

  • This site tracks complaints and works to remove fraudulent pet sales websites.
  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC): Here, you can file a complaint online or call 877-FTC-HELP.
  • Better Business Bureau: Try the BBB Scam Tracker to report online scams.
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation: File an online report at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at or call the FBI Tucson Field Office at (520) 623-4306.

Mikenzie Hammel joined the KGUN 9 team as a multimedia journalist in the summer of 2023. She graduated from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism with her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. With her passion for human connection and visual storytelling, Mikenzie is honored to share the stories of Tucson and southeastern Arizona. Share your story ideas and important issues with Mikenzie by emailing