ORLINDA, Tenn. (WKRN)- An Orlinda woman is begging for the return of her two dogs after they went missing from her backyard. After posting flyers around town and on social media, someone came forward stating she had the animals, but when the mysterious woman didn’t return them, law enforcement was called in to help.

Two American Bullies, named Tic Toc and Hunter, went missing around Jan. 15. It started as a normal day, where Brittany Holcomb’s four dogs were outside in the backyard. Holcomb, who often goes by Nikki, says her father came over to visit.

“He said he heard it latch, but evidently, it didn’t,” said Holcomb. “My husband gets home from getting my daughter from school and says the gate was open.”

Ever since that day, Holcomb has been posting on social media daily, in hopes her two dogs would be returned to her.

“It’s been pretty miserable. The first day I just thought oh they’ll be back tomorrow, this is no big deal, this is going to be fine, stop stressing. And then by the end of the second day, I was thinking, am I ever going to see these dogs again,” said Holcomb.

Then one day, Holcomb thought relief came when a mysterious woman posted on social media that she had found two American Bullies, matching the description of Holcomb’s missing animals. However, when Holcomb reached out claiming the dogs, she claims the mysterious woman said someone else had already claimed the dogs. Then Holcomb said things had gotten worse.

“The moment that she blocked me was the moment that I realized, this is not going to go the way I’m thinking and my heart just sunk, because not only is it I’m not getting my dogs back today like I thought, but this going to be that much harder,” remembered Holcomb.

Holcomb explained finding the mysterious woman is harder than it seems.

“Evidently it’s a fake name, possibly an alias. The profile is fake and has since been deactivated. So, we’ve kind of hit a dead end,” said Holcomb.

Online scams have caught the attention of the Better Business Bureau for decades. They explain how many are looking for a particular type of animal, and with the demand so great, people can easily become a victim.

“When it comes to pet scams, which is in the billions of dollars, and it’s not just in the United States where it’s a problem, it’s really a problem globally. What happens is folks are looking for a particular breed online. When they do that search, they are going to come across a really great looking picture of a puppy, and more often than not, that puppy doesn’t actually exist,” said Robyn Householder, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau in Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky.

The BBB warns scammers tend to use the same techniques to lure people in. One of the best ways to make sure you are buying a pet from a reliable person is by purchasing from a reputable dealer or even googling the image of the animal to see if it shows up on multiple websites.

“Since the pandemic one of the fastest-growing scams that we are seeing, is anything related to pets. We’re at home more than we have ever been, and so what a better time than now, to bring a new pet into the home, and of course, scammers take advantage of what’s going on around us, and so when they see that our shopping patterns have changed, they’re going to immediately create a space where they can take advantage of you,” said Householder.

Householder explained there are more people on social media than ever before, making it a hunting ground for potential scams. She warns that if people aren’t careful, one post asking for help could come at a cost.

“I think one of the things we see more often is when you as a pet owner, lose your dog, and then you post all over social media, pictures of the dog, your private information, how to contact you. Well, the scammer is going to use that information against you,” said Householder.

Ways to avoid being scammed, after you lose your pet:

  • Limit the information in your social posts: If you post on social media, omit information about unique physcial attributes. This can help you verify if someone really found your pet.
  • Watch for spoofed numbers: If you geta call from someone claiming to have your pet, ask them for a phone number where you can call them back.
  • Ask for a photo: If someone claims to have your pet, ask them to send a current picture.
  • Never wire money or use a prepaid debit card: This is considered to be the same as sending cash to someone you don’t know.
  • Microchip and/or ID tag your pet: Newer ID tags with GPS trackers can be purchased, and help find your pets location.
  • Call the police: Report it to local law enforcement if your pet was stolen, or if you see someone else trying to sell your pet online.

The BBB also warned scammers may even demand money in return for their pets.

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If you recognize Hunter or Tic Toc, you’re asked to contact the Robertson County Sheriff’s Department.