Bakersfield, Calif - My 3-year-old pit rescuer, Max, was taken a 24-hour sabbatical last Saturday by the July 4th fireworks. He's home safe now, but before being used as a pawn in a terrible game.

The game is called how much are you willing to pay for your missing dog - a dog your less helpful, unknown neighbor may not have.

Neither the Bakersfield Police Department nor the Kern County Sheriff's Office have said they've encountered this particular scam here.

but the rest country told they've received three texting apps like the one I received within minutes. program to help locate Max. Yes, three messages from different phone numbers in a few minutes.

"Trust me, I really found it," one said. Another said: "Please give me your other mobile phone number" and "give me your home contact number".

At that point, I ended the texts, and 20 minutes later, the owner of the house where Max actually took refuge — three and a half miles away — called.

A happy ending, yes, but what if I provide additional information? People fall into scams once or twice a day - and now your own dog could be an unwitting accomplice.

Do not send any amount of money to someone claiming to own your pet, says Julie Johnson of Bakersfield SPCA.

"People are being scammed on Next Door and Facebook, saying someone else has their dog, and they're basically asking for a ransom or a password or something to get their dog back," she said

. "It's a scary situation - I mean, everyone is trying to find their beloved pet... but like everything out there, it seems like there's a scam in everything."

Never disclose personal information. If looks suspicious, see relevant dog's phone clip, make sure it's your pet. Still lazy? retreat. The caller may be looking for a reward they didn't deserve.

Moral of the story: Microchip your pets, put their phone number on their tags, and beware of "helpful" people who ask too many questions.

Julie Johnson recommends that, if  your pet is microchipped, you should confirm that the information on the chip is up-to-date.

A second tip: Also include a word or phrase on the tag that you can ask the caller to repeat back to you.

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