If tragedy hits someone you know, and a friend sets up a crowdfunding page to help them out with medical bills or other expenses, it's natural to want to donate a few bucks. But some of these pages are scams — even if the tragedy is real, and happened to someone you know. Photo by Colin Knowles.
Since anyone can set up a crowdfunding site, scammers can grab your friend's name and picture and set up a fund for them. Scammers have even copied whole fundraising pages, so the only difference between the real page and the scam is who the money goes to. Sometimes a fundraiser really is managed by a friend of the family, but the friend never passes on the money.
GoFundMe writes on their safety page that there's no way to "100% guarantee" a fundraiser is on the up-and-up, but suggests some things to look for:
- Check out the fund's creator. The donation page must be linked to a Facebook account, so if the person is really connected to someone you know, you should see some mutual friends and a familiar profile photo.
- Only pay through the official WePay account. If someone claiming to be the fundraiser or a GoFundMe employee asks you to send money another way, report them.
- Ask around. GoFundMe says you should only donate to people you "personally know and trust". If you're still not sure if the fundraiser is legit, get in touch with the person you're trying to help, or a trustworthy mutual friend, to ask about the situation.
The same advice applies on other crowdfunding sites; check out the site's Help section to learn more about how (and whether) you can identify potential scammers. And check out the link below for more on the pros and cons of donating to medical fundraisers.
When to Turn Down That GoFundMe Medical Plea [USA Today]