PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Social media can be a unifying force, or a divisive one and as some share posts of pets they believe are being mistreated, the SPCA says it could be leading to a bigger problem — impersonators stealing animals.

In Wissinoming, thefts are believed to be occurring. The SPCA is sensing an uptick in cases recently where people are posing as SPCA officers and threatening neighbors with animal cruelty charges and then stealing their pets.

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It allegedly happened to a woman in Wissinoming. January 26 is a day Brenda Johnson says she’ll never forget.

“They said they were from the SPCA,” Johnson said. “They said if you don’t give us your dog, you’re going to be arrested for animal cruelty; you and your husband, so I gave them the dog.”

Johnson said it all started after a neighbor snapped and shared a photo of her dog on social media of King, the family’s 8-year-old Rottweiler, appearing to hang from a wire in the garage.

“I love animals. I would never mistreat an animal,” Johnson said.

The PSPCA says it’s received about two complaints a week for several weeks about people impersonating SPCA officers and taking pets.

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“Some of these animals were valued at well over $2,000,” said George Bengal of the SPCA.

“I think it’s well intentioned , but these people, they’re not above the law. They don’t make the law.”

Bengal says if caught, the offenders could face felony charges including theft by deception and burglary. That’s exactly what Johnson plans to pursue.

“I was really upset…It’s like taking a child out of your house,” Johnson said.

The SPCA says their officers will arrive in uniform and present a state issued ID, but if you’re still concerned, you can call the Philadelphia Police or the SPCA directly.

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