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Teens try to scam heartbroken cat owner

Linda Goodwin was at her most vulnerable when she got the scam call.

For nearly a month now, Goodwin has been desperately searching for her beloved calico cat Harley since the female feline escaped from Goodwin's Apex home.

Goodwin has visited shelters, posted signs and put an ad in The News & Observer for the orange-yellow-and-white cat that has never been outdoors, and, is, of course, considered a member of the family.

A few days after the ad ran, a girl called Goodwin saying she worked for the Wake County SPCA and had Goodwin's cat. But in order to get her cat back, the girl said, Goodwin needed to send a $70 check.

Smelling a rat, Goodwin wrote down the name and Raleigh address the girl gave her. Then Goodwin asked for the girl's phone number, and the girl gave it to her.

It was a scam, of course. The SPCA never asks pet owners to give money to get their pets back.

So Goodwin called Triangle Troubleshooter to tell us what happened so that others won't be duped.

"There are probably people out there who wouldn't think about it," she said. "They just want their pet back so badly."

She also called Apex police.

An Apex officer called the girl's number provided by Goodwin. But the girl hung up. So the Apex officer asked Raleigh police to go to the address the girl provided Goodwin and tell the girl's mother to call him, according to a Raleigh police spokesman who read us the report.

It turns out, two teenage girls were using their mother's name and home address to make money, Goodwin said.

After a police visit, the girls' mother called Goodwin to apologize. Goodwin wanted to press charges, but police said since she didn't send money, no law had been broken.

Hope Hancock, executive director of Wake SPCA, said she was disturbed to learn someone was using her organization's name to make money off vulnerable people.

"It was the fraudulent use of our name," she said. "We live to help reunite people with their animals."

As for Harley, she still hasn't been found. Goodwin suspects someone has taken her in, because Harley would go up to anyone. If you've seen Harley, who has a white nose with white on each side that looks like a bow tie, call the Troubleshooter tip line.

HAVE A PROBLEM FOR TROUBLESHOOTER? Call 836-5740 or e-mail troubleshooter@newsobserver.com. Also visit the blog at newsobserver.com.

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