Animal Cruelty & Scammers


For several weeks now I have been in conversation with a fellow NGO leader and friend about scammers on social media. Unfortunately, there has been a spike in such accounts in the recent months. During the course of watching these criminals, I noticed something that made my blood run cold. Among the common or garden crooks who impersonate actual NGOs a new breed of thief is populating our virtual spaces and cashing in on our benevolence. But this time, instead of hijacking existing spaces that causes for good occupy and attempting to redirect the kindness of animal lovers by fraud, they are setting up as fake animal rescues, and using animals to replicate the good work that NGOs do.

Humans hurting animals for clicks and likes isn’t a new phenomenon. YouTube was formerly the abusers favourite place to hang out, where every watch of their foul videos puts money in the bank for them once they hit YouTube’s monetization threshold. And we’ve all come across these dreadful people who began by staging rescue scenes, which terrified their animal victim, or those disgusting monkey torture videos, where innocent babies are torn from their mothers and subjected to humiliation, degradation and torture. And of course, let’s not forget the horrendous crush videos where small animals are crushed to death to satisfy a fetishes sexual needs. Incidentally, a crush video is not restricted to crushing, the animal can be burned, drowned, suffocated or impaled with anything from snails to puppies falling victim to this paraphilia. Paraphilia is a term used to define extreme sexual arousal to anything other than a consenting human partner. There have been awful videos of animals being cooked in microwaves. And the cat in a blender video put out by food blogger Jack Latiao which triggered a wave of similar videos being sent to animal lovers, including one of our team members. And you don’t have to go on the dark web to find this stuff either. I’ve just been on tik tok and it is awash with animal cruelty videos, I didn’t even have to search to find a video of someone brutally beating a puppy bloody. So let’s go back to the scammers I was talking about earlier and have a look at what they are doing.

We noticed a spike in overseas orgs following us, which on the surface is absolutely fantastic. Homeless dogs and dogs living in poverty need all the help they can get. And because our projects have always had a very strong focus on local community and change growing organically in these countries, we were absolutely delighted that so many NGOs were springing up. But the problem with crooks and chancers is that they often don’t know much about animals. We noticed that on the days we were vaccinating or spaying. Many of these new to platform orgs quickly did the same which felt odd. If something has a pattern to it. It’s no longer a coincidence is it? While the law of probability will result in interesting or suggestive patterns they will always be random. What are the chances of ourselves and other orgs doing exactly the same thing on exactly the same day, or very soon after each other? So this was now on our radar. We are always concerned that our lovely supporters may be abused by thieves. And it’s true to say that we get more than vexed when some lowlife impersonates us and steals funds given to support our dogs. It’s both illegal and immoral. And our dogs suffer as a consequence.

We had a closer look at some of these accounts, and were distressed by what we saw. This is scamming on a whole new level. We saw animals languishing in pain and suffering for days at a time. There was zero evidence of the dogs being seen by a vet. Some rescuers were attempting to replicate clinical procedures themselves. To an untrained eye their staging may be quite believable, we aren’t vets are we. All we see is a sick or injured dog with a person trying to help them with the use of first aid. To the trained eye all that is seen is torture, causing pain and suffering to a victim stuck in this hellish situation with no means of escape. Recently, four men were arrested in Uganda for holding animals and deliberately abusing them for donations. How would you feel if you knew that your donations were enabling the suffering of a dog or cat, a puppy or a kitten? It’s unthinkable, isn’t it? But it’s happening, otherwise these gangs of thugs would not exist. They do what they do because good kind people are duped into thinking that they are alleviating suffering, and not helping to create it. If it works, these gangs will keep on harming dogs and cats to get your money. If the money dries up, their trade in pain and misery stops. It can be incredibly difficult for most of us to recognise these scams due to the complexity of them. Scammers really are upping their game all the time to look as plausible as possible. As an NGO working internationally, we can support other orgs or individuals if we have unrestricted funds, and sometimes, the directors will actually fund things from their own personal finances. So we approached a gentleman involved in an overseas NGO with a dog needing help and offered to pay for the dogs treatment. All we need to do this is the vets name, address and telephone number, so we can connect with them to carry out a process of due diligence. Once that’s completed, we pay the vet directly, the vet supplies us with evidence that the treatments have been carried out. We do this to protect donors funding. NGOs are always highly delighted when we are able to do this for them. Competition for grants of any kind is extremely fierce, and the process of applying for one is long and hard. It usually carries an element of evidence to satisfy a board and follow ups and outcomes are needed. On this particular day, our directors decided that they would fund the dogs treatment personally and using Dog Desk Animal Actions normal process of due diligence to ensure that the dog would receive the treatment he needed. The NGO holding the dog did not send their vets details. They continued to seek money to their Pay Pal account from the public. And then they blocked Dog Desk Animal Action and their broadcasting platform Dog Desk Radio. This has never happened before. Hardworking cash strapped NGOs are always highly delighted to receive financial support of this kind. When it’s knocked back and the funder is blocked it makes a person highly suspicious of a supposed orgs motives.

So how do we, the public know that an org we are donating to is genuine? It’s very, very difficult. Firstly, form a relationship with the organisation, get to know them, view their work. For example, you can see some of our clinical work on our website, you can ask us for the details of the vets we use which we will provide you with, you would be very welcome to phone them, visit their website or even visit their practice if you were able to do that. We often show before and after pictures of our patients. You may remember our lovely boy Morris as just one example. But one I think many of you will easily remember. I don’t like saying this next bit only because I know so many fantastic individuals who create wonderful positive outcomes for dogs in need. Look for some form of governmental recognition of the org you are thinking of supporting. It is true that accounts mimicking genuine orgs will pass this test by giving the details of the genuine org. But these new orgs will not be able to do that. Finding the credentials of any NGO is straightforward. But please remember that there are several legal forms an NGO can take. So don’t assume that an NGO isn’t legitimate if they aren’t registered with the Charity Commission. Perhaps I’ll do a podcast or blog about where to find genuine folks another day if you would like to find out more about that. The same applies to foreign NGOs. They will be on a register and they will be subject to regulation. Donate safely to your chosen genuine organisation, use their donation links and check them for accuracy. Never, ever donate via friends and family. Merchants offer a service to users which should be paid for. And they are generally very kind to NGOs, giving them hefty discounts on their fees. If anyone would like me to dive deeper into this, I would be very happy to do another podcast or blog in due course. So just sing out if that’s something you would like me to do for you. So, if we see an animal in a harmful situation on a social media platform, what can we do about it?

First up, do not engage with the material, as doing so will make the material more profitable. Don’t even share it for awareness raising. Don’t even dislike something. As this still counts as engagement and boosts the materials visibility. You may sometimes see large accounts, holding on to their trolls and not blocking them. The trolls are bread and butter. They help to boost visibility as much as kind supporters and followers do. Report it to the platform. Even if you are fed up with reporting because the platform takes no action still report it. Report it to the police. Cybercrime units exist in most countries. I reported a crush crime to the FBI once, which helped the authorities to place the perpetrator in the hands of the law and have the victims, two cats removed from the property and placed in the safety of rescue. Never think that you are unable to make a difference. You most definitely can. Report to the police in the country of origin if you know it. Regional Police forces will have a form for reporting. Report the abusers to the merchants who are processing their donations. Financial services are very sensitive to fraud in their chain and will take steps to investigate and shut down accounts which violate terms and conditions.

This is a huge subject, and one which I’ve only just scratched the surface of today. If you would like a deeper dive I would be happy to do a series which focuses on each facet of these scams in greater detail. All you need to do is ask. Meanwhile, there are some websites that deal with cybercrime more generally that you may find interesting, such as the Cyber Crime Agency and the FBI Internet Crime Complaint centre. Please be careful out there. I am still feeling sick to my stomach regarding a video of a puppy having a wound treated by someone wearing scrubs, who clearly wasn’t a vet or a vet tech. It’s one of those videos you cannot unsee. While others were applauding this first aider for saving the dog, and they were actually giving him money. While I’m reeling and wondering if we are looking at the same video. That’s how good the scammers are getting. There are some scam hunters you may like to follow on Twitter. I’ve always been very shy of scam hunting, because of the capacity to get it wrong. But I have to say that while I am unable to recommend them purely for legal reasons, they have done an excellent job of exposing fraudsters and I am extremely grateful to them for that. I hope I’ve been helpful today. Please remember that this blog is my opinion based on my own experience, and is in no way a replacement for professional advice. Law varies from country to country. It’s complicated, and it’s open to interpretation. Thank you for reading. Take care of yourselves, your money and your dogs. And the next time you see something on social media stop and think and look out for that hashtag #StopAndThink

One response to “Animal Cruelty & Scammers”

  1. Hello.
    Great article! It is important for people to be aware of scammers and fake organizations taking advantage of our benevolence. Let’s continue to support genuine NGOs and be cautious when donating. #StopAndThink
    Thanks for sharing.

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