Images of lost, injured and even deceased dogs have been popping up in Suffolk Facebook groups, tugging at the heartstrings of worried locals and garnering hundreds of shares, likes and comments.

But the frightening reality is that, while you may believe you're interacting with an innocent post, scam artists are at work.

Weeks, days or sometimes mere hours afterwards, the content of the post has changed and your 'like' is attached to something you've haven't seen before.

Founder of the Finding Ipswich Dogs Organisation (FIDO) Sam French, 46, manages a Facebook group where she deals with these fraudulent posts on a day-to-day basis. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Founder of the Finding Ipswich Dogs Organisation Sam French.Founder of the Finding Ipswich Dogs Organisation Sam French. (Image: Sam French)

"Often the posts are appealing for shares or likes, pretending that they're trying to reunite a dog with their owner," she said.

"Your first thought is: 'Oh that poor dog' and that's why the scammers use them - they prey on our emotions."

With wording such as "please share" and "let's bump this post," they encourage users to interact, often leaving the comments off to stop scam spotters warning others.

For example, the following caption has been used to accompany a post in a Brandon community group, but a Facebook search reveals that the same wording and picture has been used in Norfolk, Bournemouth and even America:

"My hubby and I found this sweet puppy at our backyard in #Brandon and she's not microchipped. Looks like she hasn't been eating well for the past few days. We took her to the vet and we will continue feeding her until she gets better and hopefully she can be reunited with her family."

East Anglian Daily Times: This fraudulent Facebook post claims this dog has been found in Brandon.This fraudulent Facebook post claims this dog has been found in Brandon. (Image: Newsquest)

A reverse image search reveals that the dog is, in fact, 18-year-old Dik from the Russian village of Novonikolsk who became the subject of national media attention in 2019 when his owners mistook him for dead and he found his way back to them.

The dog has not, however, been found in Suffolk as this post claims and, days later, the text changed to advertise a fraudulent rental property.

East Anglian Daily Times: The same post has completely changed to advertise a fraudulent rental property mere days later.The same post has completely changed to advertise a fraudulent rental property mere days later. (Image: Newsquest)

Known as a 'bait and switch' scam, many of the posts ask you to click a malicious link intended to steal money or personal information.

READ MORE: Suffolk resident scammed out of £9,000 by fraudsters with car 'fault' trick

While Miss French's group becomes saturated with fraudulent posts, the organisation's genuine efforts to save dogs across the county are thwarted.

"Some groups don't have a post approval function, which just pushes the real posts further and further down your timeline," she said.

"It's heart-breaking to think of everyone jumping to help a dog who, at one point in time was in need, but whose picture has now been lifted in order to scam people."

East Anglian Daily Times: Suffolk Trading Standards confirmed that the scam has become all too common on Facebook.Suffolk Trading Standards confirmed that the scam has become all too common on Facebook. (Image: Suffolk Trading Standards)

Suffolk Trading Standards confirmed that this type of scam has become "all too common" on Facebook.

READ MORE: Scammers steal hundreds from Suffolk residents in Instagram Bitcoin con

A spokesman added that fraudsters are "preying on the goodwill of local residents" and detailed a few ways in which users can verify a post before clicking the share button:

  • Read the information carefully, looking for spelling errors and out-of-place information.
  • Check the profile of the person posting. Has it been created very recently? Do they appear to live locally?
  • Do a reverse image search on Google. That will show if the image has been used elsewhere, for adverts or websites.
  • Copy and paste the text from the post into the Facebook search bar to see if other posts appear elsewhere on the platform.
  • If you suspect a scam, report it to Facebook.

If you have lost money to a scammer, report it to your bank immediately. Report all scams to Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133.

If you have been affected by a scam and would like to share your story, please get in touch with our crime correspondent Dolly Carter on the following email address: