Considering the available information and following very recent horse ‘rescue’ events played out on social media, as documented in a previous blog, the following are suggested as red flag indicators that might help individuals to identify possible social media hoaxes and ‘animal rescue’ scams. Taking a little time to observe and consider what is being posted, and the subsequent discussions, may just help each of us to spot something that is not quite what it seems.
Indicators to animal rescue scams and hoaxes
Pages, Sites and Administrators
- Sites and pages that are relatively new and not connected to recognised animal welfare agencies.
- Groups whose administrators, and sometimes their most vocal followers, have been involved in other social media groups that have closed down.
- Where details are not given about how they are operating and how records are being kept.
- Groups whose aims are not explicit or clear or that deviate from their stated focus and activities.
- Requests for funds to provide for animals in emergency situations, often for the most basic equipment that a reputable welfare group would have, such as head collars and buckets.
- Where the tone, grammar and style of their writing alters between posts or replies.
- Photographs that have appeared elsewhere and have been copied on to the page / site without referencing where they originated from.
Behaviours of Administrators / Organisers
- Administrators / groups who claim that no one does anything about animal welfare and that they are taking it upon themselves to do this.
- Say that they are the only ones that can undertake the required action.
- Who state they have the required animal care expertise and legal knowledge.
- Say that they are not in need of assistance, advice or support and when help is offered by others dismiss it.
- Initially are very plausible and even charming, but who change very rapidly when challenged and may quickly become hostile.
- Claim that the police / other agencies have been involved in the case but the ‘rescuers’ are unwilling to give details of who these other agencies were, what was done and when.
- View any comments that are not totally supportive as criticism.
- Discussion of welfare ‘cases’ on social media that are inappropriate and not in keeping with professional agency.
- Administrators / organisers asking individuals to have discussions with them via private message rather than replying to comments in a public, transparent and open way.
- The deletion of posts and threads by administrators, especially where they have posted information that they later retract or where they have been challenged by others.
- Where organisers give accounts of series of disasters in the ‘rescue’.
- Where administrators / rescuers joke about activities that are not lawful – such as physical harm to others or ‘taking’ animals regardless of what the law allows.
- Where threats or verbal abuse is given to those that do not support them unconditionally.
- Inconsistencies, inaccuracies and where things do not generally ‘add up’.
Inappropriate self-disclosure and blaming of others
- Claim that they themselves are being victimised by others or treated unfairly.
- Administrators who give personal information about themselves to appear vulnerable or naïve.
- Where organisers give accounts of series of disasters in their own lives.
- Where administrators / rescuers make reference to their own mental health or physical problems.
- Administrators / ‘rescuers’ who, when confronted, blame each other for what has happened.
Behaviours by those following and commenting on posts
- Where there are very clear factions that quickly develop within those commenting on the information given by the individual or group.
- When some start to ask for clearer information and question factual accuracy others will defend the ‘rescuers’ very doggedly.
- Where individuals feel embarrassed and / or angry when they realise that they have been taken in by ‘rescuers’ and the support that they have given them.