Please read our disclaimer.
According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), fraud is defined as the intentional false representation or concealment of a material fact for the purpose of inducing another to act upon it to his or her injury. For the purposes of this FAQ, we will focus mostly on the false representation part.
When it comes to crowdfunding fraud, a few themes seem to be popular with would-be profiteers:
- catastrophic medical issues (cancer is extra popular with fraudsters)
- personal disaster such as unemployment, pending homelessness, or other economic distress
- veterinary bills
- death of a family member or friend
Now, any one of these things could happen to any one of us at any given time, sometimes all at once and HOLY SHITSTORM, time to bust out the fundraisers!
What sets fraudulent fundraisers apart from legitimate ones is — wait for it — usually nothing. That’s right, you really have no way of knowing which fundraisers are legit and which are cooked up by modern day robbers using technology rather than guns.
Fraudulent campaigns often feature elaborate sob stories involving some time of impending doom — say, euthanization of a pet or loss of a home — that, again, is really no different from the type of tale someone who is actually desperate to cover a $1200 vet bill or cover a late mortgage payment would write. That’s why we’re here, to remind everyone to donate with care.
Remember that just about anyone can come up with just about any sob story, slap together a fundraiser, post it online, and BOOM money starts pouring in from Aunt Betty and even internet strangers across the world gripped by the mini-novel. If only the fraudsters would use their powers for good and not evil, they could probably write better, more engaging novels than whoever the current John Grisham is (sorry, I don’t really read fiction).
Now, about that FAQ. Please note this is a work in progress and we’ll add more when we think of it.
Q: How do I know a fundraiser is fraudulent?
A: You don’t LOL
Q: How do I report a fundraiser I suspect to be fraudulent?
A: GoFundMe and other popular crowdfunding sites have a handy dandy “Report” button that might as well say “Stick your finger up your butt, fart, and then make a wish” for as much good as it achieves. You should still use it because hey, at least you tried, but document your suspicions with a big fat folder of screenshots and then contact your local police department. In some cases, you should also contact the state — for example, if someone is receiving state funds and has a fundraiser up for fraudulent reasons. The state will want to know about that “income” if you know what I’m sayin.
Q: I contacted the police and they won’t do anything, now what?
A: The law hasn’t quite caught up to the technology, so there are going to be some precincts that don’t know what to do with your accusation. Keep a log of all attempts you’ve made to bring it to their attention and remember: BE POLITE. Being an asshole never got anyone anywhere, it isn’t their fault your grifting friend is such a toolbag. Your state’s attorney general’s office is also an option, or try any state consumer safety hotline. Failing that, you can also try your local news station and see if any “on your side” reporters will pick up your tale of woe.
Q: My sisters/brothers/baby mamas/cousin is asking for money and it’s fraud because they have money, HELP.
A: Fraud has a very specific definition. If your sisters/brothers/babymamas/cousin is transparent about why they are raising money (such as “your donation goes to feed my addiction to Robitussin and swill beer”), then technically it isn’t fraud. Wrong, maybe, but not fraud. Call Jerry Springer.
Q: Why are you doing this?
A: I know people who have been in seriously shitty situations and needed the help, and have been there myself. Life is shitty enough without people making up cancer. I believe that crowdfunding can be an awesome thing but as it stands, it’s just too easy for these twats to get away with ripping people off.
Q: I emailed you about a fundraiser and you never wrote me back, what the hell is your problem?
A: This is a one-person, volunteer project. 95% of the stuff we get isn’t actually fraud and if it is, those claiming it is have provided zero evidence to tell us it is. We try to answer everyone but it just isn’t possible. Sorry bout it.
Q: I want to start a campaign but I’m afraid someone like you will tear me apart, is it OK to fundraise?
A: If you’re honest in your intention, I couldn’t give less of a shit what you do. You have every right to use platforms like GoFundMe for exactly what they are for: raising money. If your campaign is completely ridiculous, I might rip on you a bit but hey, it happens. But please don’t think because we do what we do, we are against all forms of online fundraising. Hell, even we have a PayPal donation button up to keep the lights on at Gofraudme HQ, fundraise to your hearts content. Just be real about it. If I catch you faking cancer, I will hunt you down and turn you into kibble to feed a colony of feral cats. Just kidding. My lawyer says I can’t say that, so forget I did.
Q: You wrote about my GoFundMe campaign and I want it not to be on your site. How can I get you to take it down?
A: As a rule, we don’t remove anything once it is posted. GoFundMe campaigns are public and as such, subject to scrutiny. That said, we are always interested in both sides of the story. If you — or someone you know — has been featured here and would like to set the record straight, get in touch.