Sick dog donations fraudulent

Sheba, a surrendered dog being treated for parvo, at Felines & Canines no-kill shelter in Chicago. (Felines & Canines / July 8, 2014)

It looked like Sheba was finally going to get a break. After she was first surrendered and then became critically ill, a generous benefactor stepped forward via an online fundraiser to help the pooch pull through.

The only problem? A big chunk of the donations were bogus, according to a Chicago animal rescue group.

“I don’t get it,” said Abby Smith, executive director of Felines & Canines, a no-kill shelter in the Edgewater neighborhood. “Why would someone do that? It’s so harmful to us ... it makes people think we either already hit our goal or we’re messing up.”

The saga started on Saturday, when another facility called and asked if Felines & Canines would take the pit bull mix. But what appeared to be a case of kennel cough was really parvo, a potentially fatal virus that attacks a dog’s intestines.

The staff scrambled to arrange a blood transfusion, IV fluids and an all-night veterinary technician (the tab: $600) to stay with Sheba, “because we didn’t want her to die alone,” Smith said.

The shelter put out a plea on GoFundMe.org, a fundraising website, and was relieved to get some hefty donations. However, the next day, Smith discovered that they had been scammed and that several transactions, worth a total of $3,000, were phony.

Often, thieves with stolen credit cards try them out first with transactions on nonprofit sites to make sure they are valid. Online donations are quick and don’t require a physical credit card — just a stolen card number, according to John Breyault vice president of the National Consumers League on Fraud.org.

GoFundMe said in a statement: “We do attract fraudulent donors looking to test the validity of stolen cards, just as eBay and Amazon have to deal with fraudulent purchase attempts. However, our payment processors provide a number of safeguards which allows them to cancel those donations very quickly.”

“In the case of the Team Sheba campaign, our payment processors caught the fraudulent donations early and were able to remove them all from the campaign. Our team is continuing to monitor the situation closely to make sure this issue does not continue.”

As for Sheba, she remains in critical condition and faces a long recovery — with mounting medical bills, far more extensive than the staff anticipated when they took her in.

“It’s heartbreaking. All it does is hurt the animals,” Smith said.

This morning, an update about Sheba on the shelter’s Facebook page said: “She is telling us, she’s not ready to give up, so neither are we.”

The group’s website is www.felinescanines.org and Sheba’s GoFundMe site is www.gofundme.com/b2ouwo.

brubin@tribune.com
Twitter @bmrubin