A ton of fake GoFundMe donation pages were set up for the family of Robert Godwin Sr earlier this week after he was murdered in the US. It's a nasty trick, no doubt, but this isn't the first time scammers have preyed upon sympathetic contributors, and it won't be the last. Here's how to spot the fake campaigns before you throw your money away.
Example of GoFundMe fraud.
GoFundMe's official stance suggests donors should only contribute payments to users they know personally and trust, but that's not exactly possible when a tragedy like this happens. Here's what you can do, though, if you want to donate safely:
- Steer clear of pages with minimal information provided. The page shown in the screenshot above, spotted by GoFraudMe.com, only mentioned a homeless family that is too ashamed to ask for help. No mention of a child, hospital bills or any specific problems.
- Always perform a reverse image search with Google. If you're using Chrome, just right click the main photo on the GoFundMe page and select "Search Google for image". If you see a ton of results, scammers probably stole that photo to use for their fake campaign.
- Check the campaigner's social media presence. Schemers make fake profile pages right before they make the fake campaigns. A quick search of their name should pop up their Facebook page. "Kelly Burnside" from the example above had a Facebook page that was brand new with only a few friends and posts. Sound the alarm!
- Reach out and contact them directly. GoFundMe makes it easy to contact users running campaigns. Just click the little green envelope next to their name and ask them some questions. Scammers will either not respond, or send more false information you can easily spot.
GoFundMe can be dangerous place if you have a big heart and money burning a hole in your pocket, but it can still be a force for good if you're careful. In Robert Godwin Sr's case, the family said they weren't going to do a GoFundMe. However, Wesley Scott Alexander's campaign stuck anyway, and GoFundMe spokesman Bobby Whithorne told The Washington Post that his page has been vetted and is the official campaign if you're looking to donate without worry.