August 2018 - Don’t Fall Victim to Online Charity Scams
When it comes to charitable causes, we all have situations that tug at our heartstrings and cause us to dig deep into our pockets to help. These days, giving to the causes we feel most strongly about is even easier with the influx of crowdfunding platforms. But, with this convenience comes risk.
Just this past May, an upstate New York couple was arrested for using a GoFundMe campaign to collect thousands of dollars for medical expenses for a child they falsely claimed had cancer. Fortunately, these instances are not the norm, but the danger does exist with all online charities, not just GoFundMe.
GoFundMe is perhaps the largest broad-purpose crowdfunding platform today. Since its launch in 2010, the organization has hosted about 2 million campaigns, collecting more than $5 billion from over 50 million donors. It’s estimated that more than 10,000 people start a new GoFundMe campaign every day. That’s a lot of requests for help and it is up to you to determine which are legitimate and which are fraudulent.
The best protection against online charity scams is to do your homework and watch for little red flags.
- Check the campaign organizer’s Facebook account. New accounts with 40 or fewer friends should raise suspicions. Scammers often set up false social media accounts.
- Try to contact the organizer directly; if you get vague answers to questions or no reply, chances are the organizer is a fake.
It’s been said that 70% of us donate to disaster relief causes before checking the legitimacy of the campaign. Don’t be a statistic. Before you donate, ask yourself:
- Have you seen the images used in the campaign in newspapers or elsewhere on the web?
- Are there sufficient details about how your donation will be used?
- Is there a clear connection between the campaign organizer and the victim?
If you suspect fraud, report it to the specific crowdfunding platform or to the FTC by visiting https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov. Don’t let your enthusiasm to help others override your common sense.