Prominent animal welfare organisations, namely PAWS, Second Chance Animal Society, and HOPE Johor have fallen victim to a surge in online scams targeting non-profit entities.
In a joint statement, the NGOs claim scammers are exploiting the altruistic nature of these organisations and are jeopardizing their crucial operations and fundraising efforts.
Due to this, PAWS has seen two of its bank accounts frozen, while Second Chance faces the ominous threat of blacklisting. HOPE Johor is grappling with a significant decline in donations due to public insecurity surrounding online transactions.
They operate on Telegram
The NGOs said that these scammers operate primarily on Telegram, where they engage victims in seemingly innocuous “tasks” for nominal financial rewards, including donations to specific animal welfare NGOs.
Once trust is established, the NGOs added, victims are coerced into substantial payments for fictional online stocks and cryptocurrency investments, resulting in irreparable financial losses.
Regrettably, they said, investigations by authorities into these scams often lead to the freezing of NGO bank accounts that were included within the scam messages, exacerbating the crisis. Despite efforts to thwart scammers by changing bank accounts, scammers adapted their messages accordingly to confuse the public.
We were initially baffled at why our bank account was frozen. Only when donors informed us of this scam did we realize we have been targeted by unscrupulous scammers, exploiting the public’s goodwill. We have since had to direct our donors to our website at paws.org.my which utilizes a secure gateway.PAWS shelter manager Edward Lim
They Use fake QR codes to fool the masses
Second Chance and HOPE Johor faced similar challenges, inundated by small donations of RM1 – RM20 with peculiar transaction references.
To exacerbate the situation, certain scammers went to the extent of employing counterfeit Touch N’ Go and DuitNow QR codes, misleading the public into believing they were donating to the NGOs.
This wave of scams has severely hampered the fundraising capabilities of these organisations, impacting their ability to aid homeless animals.
We directed our bank to halt all incoming transactions, leading to a daunting challenge in meeting RM40,000 of monthly expenses to sustain over 500 rescue animals. The struggle is intense, and uncertainty prevails regarding when these scammers will cease targeting us.Second Chance Animal Society President Kim Yeoh
Meanwhile, Iris Leong, manager for HOPE Johor, said recently, there has been a surge in scams exploiting the names of charitable organizations, causing a reluctance among the public to contribute towards noble causes.
Unfortunately, our community has not been immune to this alarming trend, resulting in a substantial decrease in donations. This downturn is significantly affecting our operations, making it challenging to cover essential expenses such as medical and food costs.HOPE Johor manager Iris Leong
In light of this, she urges the public to carefully scrutinise the recipient’s account details and ensure that they match the official information provided by the charity before donating.
I also encourage the use of reputable third-party payment platforms to process donations securely.HOPE Johor manager Iris Leong
Animal shelter NGOs working together
To address this crisis, PetFinder.my, an online animal welfare platform, is working with affected NGOs to enhance security in online donation channels.
With more secure fundraising and donor management strategies, we hope to instill greater confidence in the public.PetFinder Founder Andy Koh
To support these NGOs, they advised the public to visit their official websites for verified donation channels. The animal shelters also said that in the face of these scams, prompt reporting to authorities is crucial.