Scammer targets pet loving Namibians

The Swakopmund animal welfare organisation SPCA has called on the public to only donate funds to registered welfare organisations. The statement came in the wake of a possible scam uncovered this week: A person used social media to gather funds for “injured dogs”, but the animals never existed in Namibia.

The scam was uncovered this week by mere chance. “Changing Paws” is a Facebook page, which initially started out in Walvis Bay. Recently, photos of injured animals are regularly uploaded, which are claimed to have been found all over the country. “Changing Paws” requests funds to help these animals. The aim of “Changing Paws”: “We are here to not only improve, but change the lives of all animals! (sic).”
On Monday a post was uploaded of two dogs, which were claimed to have been surrendered to “Changing Paws”. The purportedly fake organisation requests funds, as the “vet in the North” will only see the animals once an outstanding bill of N$4328 is settled. The bill was accumulated due to another case, a dog called “Mighty”, which is also a rescue case.
“On one of the photos uploaded on Monday I noticed some moss growing on a piece of plank next to the injured dog and thought that couldn’t have been taken in Namibia,” said a person, who wishes to remain anonymous. The per-son did a google search and found the picture on a website stemming from 2015. A further search uncovered that almost all the posted “rescue cases” can be traced back to places all over the internet.
The dog “Mighty”, which is claimed to have been found in a rural village in the North of Namibia, is in actual fact a dog called “Priya” a female Great Dane in West Delhi/India. Another photo shows a dog with rotten teeth. The caption attached by “Changing Paws” requests funds as the animal needs a dental. The exact same photo was found elsewhere on the internet though: “11 easy ways to clean dog teeth.”
The scam has since been made public on various social media pages. Shortly thereafter “Changing Paws” deleted all evidence of the scam and took down all photos. It is estimated that good-hearted people had already donated a lot of money though. “It is exactly for this reason that people must always make sure they donate to legitimate organisations, which are registered with the Ministry,” said Ingried Gürtel, kennel manager at the SPCA, to namib times. “We all do it for the animals, but some people just take advantage of our good hearts,” she added.
The case has proven exactly how easy it is to scam the public using misleading information. The true culprit responsible for the scam could not be established though. “It is so easy nowadays to start a Facebook page, post heart-breaking things and rob people of their money,” said the person, who initially uncovered the scam. “We just hope that this does not cast a shadow on all other animal welfare organisations, who are indeed trying to make a difference.”
Yesterday “Changing Paws” had more than 780 likes. The cover photo reads: “Making a difference. One case at a time!”

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