Avoiding GoFundMe fraud, GoFundMe Policies, Know Before You Donate

So You Got Scammed By a GoFundMe Campaign, Now What?

Shut Up and Give Me Back My Money meme

Before we get into what you should do if you believe you’ve been scammed on a GoFundMe campaign, I want to speak candidly with you. You, the generous donor. You, the kind-hearted person who didn’t think twice about giving the last of your grocery money to someone in need. You, the eternal optimist who believed your donation would make a difference. Yep, you.

I know you probably feel pretty shitty right now. Maybe you feel like a fool. Maybe you feel like somehow you getting scammed is all your fault, like maybe if you hadn’t been so stupid you’d still have that $10 or $20 or $100 in your bank account to give to people or causes truly in need. Know that these feelings are normal but also know that this isn’t your fault and you are not the bad guy here. You performed an act of kindness in good faith, and the fact that your faith was manipulated is no reflection of you whatsoever. You aren’t stupid. You aren’t an idiot. And I hope that, going forward, you won’t harden your heart to those in need, but if you do I would totally understand. Now, read on.

Your first step is to familiarize yourself with the GoFundMe Guarantee, which alleges to protect donors as well as beneficiaries. I’ve heard mixed things about this guarantee (including GoFundMe making people jump through ridiculous hoops to qualify, despite their communications people telling the media in carefully crafted statements that donations are protected by this industry-best guarantee, so YMMV), so let’s break it down by what GoFundMe considers “valid” claims under it.

There are two components to the GoFundMe Guarantee: the donor side and the beneficiary side. For the sake of this post, we’ll be focusing on the donor side. We’ll be following up with a beneficiary-specific guide later.

Short facts:

  • The GoFundMe Guarantee currently covers campaigns in the US, Canada, United Kingdom, Spain, France, Italy and the Netherlands.
  • GoFundMe defines “misuse” as the following: The campaign organizer doesn’t deliver funds to the intended beneficiary, the campaign description is intentionally misleading to donors, or the campaign organizer or beneficiary is charged with a crime related to misrepresentations made in their campaign
  • Your donation is covered up to $1000, and only if GoFundMe investigates and determines misuse has occurred

So this means that if, say, the campaign was started in the United States, and the campaign organizer was intentionally misleading donors (this is a toughy, notice the “intentionally”), and you donated $999, AND you file a claim under the GoFundMe Guarantee 20 days after making your donation CONGRATULATIONS, you might get your money back.

But let’s say the campaign was started in the United States, and the campaign organizer wasn’t charged with any crime but you later learned details about their situation that led you to believe they are misleading donors and you only found this out two months after you donated. Sorry, shit outta luck kid.

To submit a donor claim under the GoFundMe Guarantee, start here. There’s even more legalese you might want to read before you try opening a claim, which you’re welcome to read here.

This is entirely anecdotal but in our time running this site and speaking to both jilted donors and disappointed beneficiaries, our advice is this: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Meaning, it’s way easier not to give to a semi-sketchy campaign than it is to give and hope to get your money back if things aren’t right.

Certain cases are outright excluded from GoFundMe’s so-called first in class refund policy, let’s take a look:

  • Seeking a refund for your donation to your own campaign;
  • Refunds for offline donations not transacted on the Platform;
  • Regretting the donation;
  • A personal disagreement with or dislike of the campaign organizer or beneficiary;
  • Disagreement with how a campaign organizer or beneficiary uses funds raised in excess of the stated campaign goal at the time of your donation;
  • Disagreement over the payment instrument or means by which the campaign organizer or Intended Beneficiary will receive the campaign funds;
  • Disagreement with GoFundMe for any reason; or
  • Any reason not based on the honestly-held belief based on presentable information that a Misuse has occurred.

Again, all of this hinges on GoFundMe’s loose idea of “misuse,” which ultimately is in their control to define for the purposes of their guarantee. Multiple actual charges that GoFundMe campaign organizers have faced in court for theft by deception notwithstanding.

If you honestly believe a crime has occurred in relation to a GoFundMe campaign you’ve donated to, we urge you to contact local authorities. While GoFundMe does cooperate with law enforcement in investigations, it’s worth noting here that they do not report suspected criminal activity on their platform to law enforcement. So it’s up to you, the “users” of the site they brag about every year in their Year in Giving report, to tip off investigators if you have been a victim of crime or know of crimes being committed on this platform. As always, if you need any help figuring out who to call or what evidence you need, you can reach us virtually 24/7 on the GoFraudMe tipline, or by email, or just fill out a GoFundMe fraud report and we’ll try to help.