GoFundMe Scams (9 Examples + How to Avoid Them)

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GoFundMe is a popular crowdfunding platform that enables individuals and organizations to raise funds for personal, medical, educational, or charitable causes.

Founded in 2010, the platform allows users to create personalized fundraising campaigns, share their stories, and attract support from a global community of donors.

Unfortunately, the platform has also faced challenges with fraudulent activities and scams, where some individuals exploit the generosity of donors for personal gain.

GoFundMe scams can take various forms, including fabricated stories of hardship, false claims of medical emergencies, or misrepresented charitable causes. Scammers use emotional narratives to manipulate donors into contributing money.

Some scams involve misappropriation of funds, where the raised money is not used for the stated purpose, but rather diverted for personal use by the scammer. Scammers can also exploit trending topics or high-profile incidents to create seemingly urgent and compelling campaigns, preying on the public’s desire to help in times of crisis.

1) Fake Illness or Medical Emergency

GoFundMe has unfortunately witnessed instances where individuals exploit the platform by creating fictitious campaigns centered around severe illnesses or medical emergencies. These scams often involve fabricated stories intended to evoke sympathy and generosity from potential donors.

Scammers may use emotionally charged language, heart-wrenching narratives, and misleading medical details to deceive contributors.

To safeguard against such scams, donors should carefully scrutinize the campaign details, verify the authenticity of medical claims, and consider reaching out to the campaign organizer for additional information.

Fact-checking the medical information and consulting with relevant medical professionals can help donors make informed decisions and avoid falling victim to these deceptive schemes.

2) Fake Offers

In addition to the fake illness scam, GoFundMe users should be aware of scams involving offers that seem too good to be true.

These scams often involve individuals reaching out with promises that may compromise the security of the fundraising campaign or the personal information of the organizer.

GoFundMe advises users to exercise caution when presented with offers that sound exceptionally favorable. In such scams, scammers may contact campaign organizers, especially those who are less experienced, offering to run their fundraiser on their behalf, often in exchange for a payment.

It is crucial for organizers to carefully evaluate such offers, ensuring they come from reputable sources, and to avoid sharing sensitive information.

Another scam along this line involves donation withdrawal offers. In this scam, the scammer offers to withdraw donations on behalf of the campaign organizer in exchange for a fee.  

Keep in mind that GoFundMe provides secure mechanisms for organizers to access and withdraw funds directly. So such requests should be an instant red flag and organizers should be wary of any external parties offering such services.

What’s more, scammers may promise to guarantee reaching the fundraising goal in exchange for a service fee or a percentage of the funds raised.

Genuine fundraising success relies on the support of the community, and there are no legitimate shortcuts to guarantee a specific outcome.

Similar GoFundMe offers scams may include:

  • Individuals offering to make a substantial donation to the fundraiser, but only if the organizer pays a service fee or a percentage of the funds raised.
  • Social media exposure offers where scammers may promise to share the fundraiser with a large social media following for a fee or a percentage of funds raised.
  • Information-for-donation scams where the scammer offers to donate in exchange for personal information, such as email addresses, phone numbers, or banking details. This should raise immediate suspicions.

3) False Accidents or Disasters

Another common GoFundMe scam involves scammers taking advantage of natural disasters, accidents, or tragedies to create fake campaigns. In the aftermath of real disasters, scammers seize the opportunity to fabricate stories, claiming to be victims in need of financial assistance.

These campaigns often exploit the collective empathy of the public. To protect against this type of scam, potential donors should verify the details of the disaster, cross-check information with credible news sources, and ensure that the campaign aligns with the timeline and circumstances of the actual event.

Donors can also check for official disaster relief efforts and contribute to established charities to support genuine recovery initiatives rather than falling prey to fraudulent campaigns.

4) Romance/Catfishing GoFundMe Scams

In a sweetheart or romance GoFundMe scam, perpetrators establish a false romantic relationship with the victim. They often employ emotional manipulation, affectionate communication, and fabricated stories to gain the victim’s trust.

Once a connection is established, the scammer may introduce a fake fundraising campaign on GoFundMe, claiming to need financial assistance for various reasons such as medical emergencies or personal crises.

Catfishing is a broader term encompassing the creation of a deceptive online identity, often used in conjunction with romance scams. Perpetrators go to great lengths to construct a false persona, using fake names, photos, and personal details to trick their victims.

In GoFundMe scams, catfishing can involve the creation of fake fundraising campaigns or the impersonation of legitimate campaign organizers. Victims may be lured into contributing funds based on a fabricated sense of trust established through the catfished identity.

5) Stolen Photos and Stories

Scammers frequently resort to using stolen photos and stories from legitimate cases to create fraudulent campaigns on GoFundMe.

In these instances, the scammer misappropriates the identity and experiences of real individuals to manipulate the emotions of potential donors.

To detect such scams, donors can employ reverse image searches to identify the original source of the photos and verify the authenticity of the accompanying stories.

Additionally, contacting the supposed beneficiaries directly through secure channels can help confirm the legitimacy of the campaign.

By being watchful and using these verification methods, donors can contribute to campaigns that genuinely align with the depicted circumstances rather than inadvertently supporting scams.

6) Nonexistent Charities

A prevalent GoFundMe scam involves scammers posing as charitable organizations to deceive well-intentioned donors. These fraudulent campaigns may claim to support a charitable cause, but in reality, the funds collected often do not contribute to any genuine charitable efforts.

To protect against this type of scam, donors should conduct thorough research on the purported charity, verifying its legitimacy through official channels and charity watchdog organizations.

Donors can also reach out to the campaign organizer to request additional information about the charity’s mission, financial transparency, and previous achievements.

By cautiously scrutinizing the sincerity of charitable campaigns, donors can ensure that their contributions make a positive impact on real and deserving causes.

7) Phony Petitions or Causes

Scammers frequently exploit popular causes or petitions by creating deceptive campaigns on GoFundMe. These scams may involve false claims of supporting widely endorsed social or environmental issues to attract donors who are passionate about these causes.

To safeguard against such scams, potential donors should carefully research the cause promoted by the campaign, ensuring that it aligns with established advocacy groups and recognized initiatives.

On top of that, donors can verify the legitimacy of the campaign by checking for endorsements from reputable organizations and individuals associated with the cause.

By exercising due diligence and contributing to campaigns with verified connections to the stated cause, donors can avoid falling victim to deceptive schemes that exploit popular issues for financial gain.

8) Misuse of Funds

While some crowdfunding campaigns may start with genuine intentions, there is a risk of funds being misused over time. Scammers may initially present a legitimate need but divert the collected funds for personal use or purposes unrelated to the stated cause.

To mitigate this risk, donors should stay engaged with the campaign’s progress, request updates from the organizer, and seek transparency regarding fund allocation.

Donors can also check for periodic updates or milestones achieved by the campaign and report any inconsistencies or concerns to GoFundMe.

By maintaining an active interest in the campaign’s development, donors contribute to accountability and discourage the potential misuse of funds, ensuring that their contributions genuinely support the intended cause.

9) Identity Theft

GoFundMe scams involving identity theft often revolve around scammers creating campaigns while posing as someone else. These scams may use stolen identities or personal information to establish a false narrative, making it challenging for donors to distinguish between legitimate and fraudulent campaigns.

To protect against identity theft scams, donors should exercise caution when contributing to campaigns where the organizers are not transparent about their identities.

Verifying the identity of the campaign organizer through official channels, such as social media profiles or direct communication through the GoFundMe platform, can help confirm the legitimacy of the campaign.

By being vigilant and verifying the authenticity of campaign organizers, donors can avoid inadvertently supporting scams that exploit the personal details and experiences of others for financial gain.

How to Avoid GoFundMe Scams

Check the story details – Ensure that the fundraising campaign provides specific information about the person or cause in need. A genuine campaign will explain why assistance is required, detailing the circumstances or challenges faced. If the narrative is vague or lacks clarity, it raises suspicions about the campaign’s legitimacy.

Verify contact information – Confirm that there is clear contact information for the person organizing the fundraiser. Legitimate campaigns typically include ways to get in touch, such as an email address or social media links. Scammers may avoid providing this information, making it essential to be cautious when contact details are not readily available.

Research the organizer – Take the time to research the individual or group behind the fundraising campaign. Legitimate organizers often have a visible online presence, including social media profiles or news articles that mention their activities. If a thorough search yields little to no information about the organizer, it raises concerns about the authenticity of the campaign.

Question unrealistic goals – Evaluate the fundraising goal set by the campaign. If the target amount seems excessively high or unrealistic for the stated purpose, exercise caution. Scammers may set lofty goals to attract more donations without a clear plan for utilizing the funds appropriately. Realistic and well-explained goals are indicative of genuine fundraising efforts.

Check for updates – Examine whether the campaign provides regular updates on how the raised funds are being used. Legitimate fundraisers typically keep supporters informed about the progress and impact of their contributions. If there are no updates or the information lacks specificity, it may indicate a potential scam. Genuine campaigns prioritize transparency and communication with their supporters.

It’s super important to be careful when helping out on GoFundMe. Always check if the story makes sense and has clear details. Make sure there’s contact info for the person behind it, and do a little research to be sure they’re real.

If the goal seems too high or things don’t add up, it might be a scam. And, real fundraisers give updates on how the money helps, so watch out for that too. Being smart about it keeps everyone safe and helps those who really need it.

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