Bogus animal rescue Facebook page poses as genuine sanctuary to lure donations


The owner of a Tasmanian animal shelter says she plans to involve police over a Facebook page using dozens of photos of the animals at her sanctuary to lure donations from well-meaning people.

Brightside Farm Sanctuary’s Emma Haswell said she was contacted by someone on social media who had noticed a woman on Facebook posting the photos.

She said she could not believe what was happening.

“I got two messages from people who were friends with this woman on Facebook and they sent me screenshots,” she said.

“The screenshots were of animals I’ve rescued and rehabilitated and rehomed with sometimes new names, sometimes the name I gave them and they were up for virtual adoption.

“It had a range of prices you could pay per month and bank account details.”

Photos of Tipsy from Brightside Farm Sanctuary appeared on Facebook with the caption “Queen Grace”.(Supplied)

Ms Haswell, who has run the shelter in Tasmania’s south-east for about 15 years, said sometimes the animal pictures had dramatic stories about how they had been rescued.

“One example is she found a photo from the Brightside Facebook page from about 4 or 5 years ago of a photo of a whole lot of puppy farm dogs that I rescued that were in crates on the back of a ute,” she said.

“She put them up saying she had been to her vet this week and collected all these dogs that were going to be euthanised due to people panicking and wanting to get rid of them due to coronavirus.”

Ms Haswell said she found photos of a kelpie she rescued called Tipsy.

“I put nine months into rehabilitating her and she made it and she’s thriving.

Emma Haswell stands next to cattle at Brightside Farm Sanctuary
Emma Haswell says she plans to use screenshots taken from the page in a complaint to police.(ABC News: Jessica Hayes)

Ms Haswell said the page’s creator had taken “all the images of Tipsy and renamed her Queen Grace, all pictures of the dog on my bed and put them up as her dog she’s rescued and a terrible sob story saying ‘please donate to me to help me feed her’.

“It’s not just Brightside. It’s smaller wildlife organisations.”

Ms Haswell said she had collected information to make a formal complaint to Tasmania Police.

Hundreds of ‘fake charity’ reports

Earlier this year, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) told the ABC they had received dozens of reports of bushfire-related scams.

Screenshot from Brightside Farm Sanctuary of person using photos
The Facebook page’s creator wrote a post thanking those who had sent money.(Facebook)

According to the ACCC’s Scamwatch website, there had been 829 reports of ‘fake charities’ this year, with more than $113,000 lost.

In 2019, there were 1167 reports and $411,588 in reported losses.

“Fake charities┬átry to take advantage of your generosity and compassion for others in need,” it said.

“Scammers will steal your money by posing as a genuine charity.

“Not only do these scams cost you money, they also divert much needed donations away from legitimate charities and causes.”

The Facebook page posting Brightside Farm Sanctuary’s photos has been deleted.



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