December 18, 2019 - Douglas Myser

Avoiding crowdfunding scams. In a time of need, whether due to a personal tragedy or one as a result of a natural disaster, a popular method to ask for donations is through crowdfunding such as a GoFundMe campaign through Facebook. Take the time to make sure the funds really go to the needy family or victims, and not into the pockets of scammers who have created a false fundraising site. Crooks get creative in crafting crowdfunding scams. Here are tips to help. Know the organizer. Consumer reports suggests that where feasible, you donate to people you already know and trust. Since that is not possible for folks living outside the areas where the tragedies occurred, be patient. Wait and not be the first to donate. Then read the comments to see if anything suspicious comes up. Avoiding crowdfunding scams.

Note who is in charge. Look at who is running the campaign. This is especially important if you are giving from afar and do not personally know any of those involved, either the intended recipients of the gifts or those who have set up the campaign. Consider giving to campaigns run by third parties rather than ones set up by folks who need or are requesting financial help. A third party administrator offers an extra layer of oversight. Surf social media. Check the social media presence of the campaign administrator, be it a third party or someone closer to the beneficiaries. Market Watch suggests you Google the name of the recipient in conjunction with the words, complaint, review, rating, or scam to see if anything indicating misuse of funds or fraud pops up. Avoiding crowdfunding scams.

Look for an established website host. Make sure the effort is being handled by an established crowdfunding website. In times of major tragedies or disasters, crowdfunding platforms generally check out the efforts and create verified pages. While the hosting sites say they check out campaign organizers, the fine print also, in many cases, says you are essentially giving at your own risk.

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