As we have said time and time again, highly publicized events — such as an officer killed in the line of duty — are perfect targets for unscrupulous GoFundMe scammers looking to turn a quick buck. As soon as the item hits the news, they hit GoFundMe to slap up a legitimate-looking campaign purporting to benefit the loved ones left behind. The grieving community wants to help, of course, and who would even think that someone might take advantage of that? That innocence is exactly what the scammers count on.
We know of three incidents this month alone involving end of watch and fake GoFundMe campaigns.
North Las Vegas detective Chad Parque was killed in a head-on collision with a car traveling in the wrong direction on January 7, 2017. The following day, the North Las Vegas Police Department Office of Public Information released a warning that any GoFundMe campaigns in Detective Parque’s name were fraudulent:
With the recent tragic death of Detective Chad Parque, we have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support. Many community members have reached out and asked how they can help his family. We have become aware of fraudulent fundraising efforts in Detective Parque’s name. There are NO authorized or legitimate GoFundMe accounts set up to benefit Detective Parque’s family. Please do not donate to any GoFundMe accounts in his name.
At least one such fraudulent GoFundMe campaign was found, and removed from the site.
In Louisiana, Officer Michael Louviere was ambushed and gunned down on January 20, 2017 when he stopped to assist what he believed to be a car accident. The Westwego Police Department immediately put out a warning about fake fundraising campaigns:
We are extremely grateful for all of the support we have received from the community and police departments from all over the country. However, there are always people who attempt to profit from tragedies like this. Please do no donate any money or time to any of the several “fundraisers’ that have been brought to our attention. At this time we are in the process of setting up fundraisers and donation accounts for the officer’s family. If a fundraiser is determined to be legitimate, we will post it on this page. Again we appreciate all of the support and we will keep everyone updated on official fundraisers that ensure 100% of donations go to the family of Michael Louviere.
The “car accident” that day was actually estranged husband Sylvester Holt chasing his pregnant ex Simone Veal; upon finding out she was pregnant, Holt confronted her at the home she shared with her boyfriend, shot at her, and chased her about a mile down the road before crashing into her vehicle.
It is believed that Officer Louviere was bent over assisting Veal, who was lying in a pool of her own blood, when Holt shot him in the back of the head. The suspect fled, and later shot himself after a seven hour standoff with authorities.
Shortly after her death, a phony GoFundMe campaign popped up asking for $10k to bury her. The scammer didn’t even spell her name right. It was quickly removed, but an archived copy can be found here.
A legitimate campaign to benefit Officer Louviere’s family was later identified, and control of funds was turned over to the Westwego Police Benevolent Association.
Meanwhile, in Orlando, Master Sgt Debra Clayton, a 17-year veteran of the force, was gunned down in a Wal-mart parking lot on January 17, 2017 in pursuit of Markeith Loyd, who was wanted for the December 2016 slaying of his pregnant girlfriend.
Orange County Deputy Norman Lewis also died that day, when his motorcycle collided with another vehicle in pursuit of Loyd.
“Unfortunately after tragic events there are evil people out there who are looking to take advantage of our community,” Orlando police Chief John Mina said. He said at least two fake fundraising campaigns were put up for the fallen officers.
Loyd was later captured and obviously fell down some stairs repeatedly. Several GoFundMe campaigns popped up for him as well, but were quickly nuked as GoFundMe specifically forbids raising money for those suspected of criminal activity.
All of this is just for a single month. It’s disheartening that there are people out there waiting to pounce on a tragedy in order to profit, but what can you do? They’re out there.