(WTTV/WXIN) — It seems that scammers have reached a new low: exploiting the emotions of desperate owners searching for their lost pets.

According to Scamicide, crooks are posing as local humane societies or animal control officers and calling owners of lost pets. The crooks tell the distraught owner they have their dog or cat and can return him or her. 

However, the owner is told they must first pay a fee over the phone.

Unfortunately, this glimmer of hope is fake. The caller isn’t really an animal control officer, and they don’t really have the lost pet.

Crooks involved in this scam are on the lookout for “lost pet” posters that display phone numbers to call. In addition, some of the scammers are spoofing their caller ID to make it look like they’re calling from the local animal shelter.

One of the first instances of this scam came from the Idaho Humane Society, but it’s spreading to other areas.

“This scam is a cruel attempt to deceive innocent victims and extort money from them,” a statement from the Idaho Humane Society said. “The Idaho Humane Society never requests payment over the phone for lost pets. Our primary concern is the welfare of animals and ensuring that lost pets are reunited with their rightful guardians as quickly as possible.”

That statement contains a clue: neither humane societies nor animal control departments will demand payment for lost pets.

If you have a lost pet and you get a call like this, you should hang up and call back on a number you confirm is real. In general, you should never give information or make a payment to someone you didn’t call. You just never know if they’re legitimate unless you’ve called them.