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Fraudulent donations at GoFundMe could hurt animal shelter's reputation

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NBC Chicago reported Tuesday that Felines & Canines, a no-kill, nonprofit shelter in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood, had become victims of credit card fraud.

The shelter uses crowdfunding on a regular basis to help keep the shelter running and to help take care of the canine and feline residents.The Felines & Canines website states that operation costs run more than $1,000 daily to feed, shelter, and take care of those animal residents, of which there are approximately 150 at any given time.

In the case of Sheba, a pup whose owners had surrendered her to the shelter because they were unable to take her along when they had moved, medical costs had begun to skyrocket (and are still skyrocketing) because of her state. According to the Team Sheba GoFundMe campaign, Sheba had become depressed after her previous owners had departed and then very ill to the point that she could not eat or stand. She “couldn’t stop shaking or vomiting,” wrote Kelly Thompson of Felines & Canines on the GoFundMe page. After some medical tests, Sheba was diagnosed with parvo and continues to be hospitalized. An update on the campaign page from July 5 related

We are running labs, doing chest x-rays, keeping her on an IV catheter, starting treatment on her bi-lateral ear infections, and will do a transfusion if she is not able to make progress over the next few days of intense treatment.

As of early Wednesday afternoon, the GoFundMe campaign had raised more than $17,000 and within three days, generosity had poured in from nearly five hundred donors. While this is good news for the shelter, fraudulent donations from thieves testing out stolen credit cards, such as the ones received by the shelter’s campaign, really hurt the shelter’s reputation. Felines & Canines staff related that when donors see such things happen, they may think that the shelter has already met the goal at hand and choose at that time not to donate or they may think that the shelter is “messing up” in some way, reported the Chicago Tribune.

Unfortunately, GoFundMe is no stranger to such fraudulent charges. It turns out that often, credit card thieves will test their stolen cards on such sites to see if the cards are active. GoFundMe related in a statement that

As the world's most popular fundraising website, 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 allow 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.

Yesterday, another update on the site stated that Sheba was not doing very well. More treatments and continued hospitalization were necessary. Kelly Thompson related that “[Sheba’s] medical bills will be much more extensive than we originally anticipated, but she is not telling us she’s ready to give up, so neither are we.”

The GoFundMe campaign for Sheba is still live as are other pages on the the site to assist in the care of other residents of the shelter.

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