Late last month, Rachel Dean's cat mysteriously disappeared from the front porch where he would take his daily afternoon nap.
"He's an old boy and he wouldn't wander off on some grand adventure," she said.
Named Romeo, for his affectionate personality, Dean rescued him several years ago.
The day after he vanished, she put up fliers throughout the neighborhood, with Romeo's picture and her phone number. Five days ago, she received a voicemail. A man asked if there was a reward for Romeos return.
The next call she received she said was from a man who claims to have her cat. That began a series of text messages over several days.
"I asked him to send me a picture," Dean said. "It was of two cats and a cage, and none of them look like Romeo. He told me he had five other cats too, and later message me that in all there were 50 cats."
Growing suspicious, Dean googled the pictures and found they were generic images on the Internet.
Then came the offer she said.
"He told me I could get Romeo back for $300. He also offered to finance the payments over eight months. For one moment, I actually believe that he might have Romeo."
That hope has now vanished. She reported her missing cat and what she suspects was a scam to Dickinson police.
A police spokesman said that it appears the phone number that was being used is a spoofed number, and it's being used by a scammer. He also said that Dean has done everything right by questioning what she was being told, and not sending any money.
Dean also wants to warn other pet owners. "I don't want some sweet grandmother who has lost her pet to fall for this and send money and never see her pet again."
"He told me that this was his business," she said. "That they were in the business of reuniting lost pets with their owners for a price. I don't believe they have Romeo at all."
Anyone who does know Romeo's whereabouts is asked to call Dickinson police.
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