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How to protect yourself from GoFundMe scams

Scams are rare, but there are ways to check
Posted at 4:44 PM, Nov 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-16 18:40:57-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A recent GoFundMe scam in Philadelphia has prompted concerns from donors.

Last year, a homeless man claimed that he gave his last $20 to a woman who had run out of gas. The grateful couple started a GoFundMe page to help the man get back on his feet.

However, authorities later said it was all an elaborate scheme to get money. More than $400,000 was raised and then spent on various items, including a Las Vegas trip, luxury handbags, casinos and cash withdrawals.

Kate McClure, Mark D'Amico and Johnny Bobbitt were each charged with theft by deception in the scheme and could face up to 10 years in prison.

GoFundMe representatives call this kind of scam very rare. The company pledged to return money to all 14,000 donors to the campaign.

According to GoFundMe, the company's No. 1 goal is to ensure all the funds raised on its platform are used only as stated in the campaign story and to ensure all donations are delivered securely to the right person.

To make sure that happens, GoFundMe said potential donors should be able to answer several questions when reading the campaign story:

1. How is the campaign organizer related to the intended recipient of the donations?

2. What is the purpose of the campaign, and how will the funds be used?

3. Are direct family and friends making donations and leaving supportive comments?

4. Is the intended recipient in control of the withdrawals? If not, is there a clear path for the funds to reach them?

Money raised through GoFundMe campaigns goes directly to the beneficiary, not the person who started the campaign.

Sometimes, there may be more than one campaign for the same purpose. In those cases, GoFundMe tries to direct potential donors to the main account.

The Federal Trade Commission recommends doing research before donating to any charity.

According to the FTC, people should avoid any charity or fundraiser that refuses to provide detailed information about its identity, mission, costs and how the donation will be used.