How Go Fund Me prevents fraud
GoFundMe is a great way to scam people
I'm not the moral police here, but I'll just go ahead and say that people shouldn't cheat on one another. Think of a free world scam! We would love to be the unlucky Nigerian Prince and the Publishers Clearing House to trust. Yes, above all: don't cheat people. It is unpolite. But if you were To perpetuate a scam, crowdfunding platform GoFundMe, a great way is to do so.
GoFundMe is a crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. It just has a much looser jurisdiction when it comes to what kind of things can be funded. You can use money for charity or sanctuary to the sick child ... or you can use it to ask your friends to pay for your morally awful sex tourism vacation.
I'm not saying the GoFundMe way of working is to rip people off (or to facilitate morally awful sex tourism vacations). But there's minimal * curation when it comes to the kind of thing you can crowd finance, and because their policies protect organizers more than donors or recipients - sob story succubi are able to scam people over and over again with GoFundMe .
A dear Gizmodo reader experienced this GoFundMe scam firsthand and detailed the company's response in utterly lackluster detail.
The reader, we call S, was contacted on Twitter by a man named Ken Wills, the godfather of Noah Knickerbocker, a newborn baby in need of a heart transplant. Wills was soliciting donations for the baby family through GoFundMe. S confirms that Will's sponsored child was sick and donated $ 100. But he couldn't get Baby Noah's tragic fate out of his mind. He decided that he wanted to actively help raise the family fundraise.
At this point he decided to research the situation more thoroughly before beginning to ask, donate to his friends and connections. And that's when he realized that all wasn't what it seemed.
S discovered an ABC news report on Wills campaign titled "Man Allegedly Holds Crowdfunding Money Exalted in Sick Baby Names." It was as bad as it sounds: Wills would have donated the $ 6,500 to help Noah and told the family that he would instead give the money to various charities, a move that appalled Noah's parents - they had already started planning the money use to move closer to the hospital.
Will's posted checks show his donations to Ronald McDonald House, Boston Children's Hospital, and Wisconsin Children's Hospital. But when ABC News contacted the charities to find out if Wills, in fact, had made these donations, none of them had received checks at this level.
When ABC confronted Wills, his response wasn't exactly reassuring: "Wills said he couldn't explain why the three organizations received so little from him, but suggested his exams have not yet arrived."
GoFundMe is recommended to contact the local authorities. The Knickerbocker family filed a complaint with the Colorado District Attorney about the incident.
S was outraged by the report. He tries to search the Baby Noah GoFundMe page to see if Wills, as he claims, has been upfront about the fact that he should always be giving the money to charity and not to Noah's family. But when he went to check, the page was gone. S expl
I don't know if Ken Wills stole the money or donated it to charity. His charity donation claims haven't been backed up yet, however - and it's not looking good at the moment. What I wanted to determine was did his GoFundMe page make it clear that he intended to donate some of the money directly to charities and not give it directly to parents? Because the impression I certainly had was the money wrote to go to the parents, “S me.” When I went to look at the campaign, it was missing. So I contacted GoFundMe. "
S his messages saved by GoFundMe. "If you would like to issue a scam complaint against the campaign, please let us know and put our trust and Safetu (sic!) -Team to investigate the campaign and take appropriate action, "wrote a" Customer Happiness "representative named Meghan.
"How do I make an official scam complaint if I don't know if I was cheating?" S asked. He expressed the problem of requesting access to a record of the original campaign page. Meghan gave him the same snippet of answer about filing a fraud complaint every time. Eventually a supervisor responds, offers S a refund, but reiterates that GoFundMe would not show him the campaign page.
"After removing a campaign content previously found on the campaign is no longer considered public information and we are unable to share it with donors," wrote the supervisor. She later stated that S would need to obtain a court-ordered subpoena to display the campaign page that he had given money.
In other words, GoFundMes policy organizers privileges over donors to the point where they condemn fraud.
This is not to say that GoFundMe wants to be used as a scam platform. All evidence points to the team really being people who for legitimate reasons want to help money. And society has fraud guarantees: there is a wait before campaign organizers can withdraw their money after they close their accounts. GoFundMe clearly does not warn to donate campaigns "unless they understand and trust presents the cause."
I'm skeptical of crowdfunding campaigns as a general basis - Kickstarter, Indiegogo, GoFundMe and the like are, essentially, advertising tools and machine hype. Everyone should be generally skeptical about crowdfunding projects: they hold up their hands and ask you for money and they are often under no obligation not to provide any real evidence that they want the money to be used wisely. But even if I were a flag-waving fan of all things group girl group, this situation would smell rank as well.
Of course, GoFundMe doesn't prevent all cases of fraud. But the company should keep an archive of disabled campaigns that people who followed those campaigns to track to make sure their money was donated to where it supposed to go. It tries to span a line between transparency and privacy organizer but the balance is off and it falls on the side helping liars and cheats.
Noah's family created a second GoFundMe page that was supposed to help their sick child, but now they also need money to explain that the first attempt was a scam.
It's a story that embodies the pitfalls of crowdfunding. These platforms exist to help people make money, and don't forget that the company can take a cut. They are companies that are built on a reputation for idealism that is often at odds with the way they treat the idealists who fuel their success.
* GoFundMe wrote to me explaining that they do curate their campaigns. "We have a dedicated team of employees who view every single GoFundMe campaign before they go public to ensure they are in accordance with our Terms & Conditions," GoFundMe PR Manager Kelsey Little wrote. Welllll okay. It allows people to inquire about almost anything and then not proactively follow up on how they withdrew money personally, so.
Art by Michael Hession / Screenshot by our tipster
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