PETALING JAYA: In a distressing turn of events, 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. Exploiting the altruistic nature of these organisations, scammers are jeopardising their crucial operations and fundraising efforts.
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.
Operating primarily on Telegram messenger, scammers engage victims in seemingly innocuous “tasks” for nominal financial rewards, including donations to specific animal welfare NGOs. Once trust is established, victims are coerced into substantial payments for fictional online stocks and cryptocurrency investments, resulting in irreparable financial losses.
Regrettably, 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, PAWS experienced a rapid adaptation of scam messages.
Edward Lim, shelter manager of PAWS, expressed, “We were initially baffled at why our bank account was frozen. Only when donors informed us of this scam did we realise 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 utilises a secure gateway.”
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.
Kim Yeoh, President of Second Chance, revealed, “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 rescued animals. The struggle is intense, and uncertainty prevails regarding when these scammers will cease targeting us.”
Iris Leong, manager for HOPE Johor, added, “Recently, there has been a surge in scams exploiting the names of charitable organisations, 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.
“In light of this, I earnestly urge the public to carefully scrutinise the recipient’s account details and ensure that they match the official information provided by the charity before making the donation. I also encourage the use of reputable third-party payment platforms to process donations securely.”
In a collaborative effort to address this crisis, PetFinder.my, an online animal welfare platform, is working with affected NGOs to enhance security in online donation channels.
Andy Koh, founder of PetFinder, emphasised, “With more secure fundraising and donor management strategies, we hope to instil greater confidence in the public.”
To support these NGOs, please visit their official websites for verified donation channels. In the face of these scams, prompt reporting to authorities is crucial.