Inviting Fraud

Here’s Your Obligatory and Repetitive Warning to Exercise Caution Donating to Louisiana Flood Fundraisers

File photo via WILX

Another day, another tragedy; this time, devastating floods in Louisiana. Have a look see (aka quick Google) and clearly, GoFundMe is going wild with campaigns. We have no way to know just how many unless we spend the next two days counting them manually which would be a colossal waste of time and frankly not helpful at all. But let’s pull a number out of our butt magic hat and say there are 1000.

Using GoFundMe’s claim that fraudulent campaigns make up “less than one-tenth of one percent of all GoFundMe campaigns,” that means at least one of them is fake. A) how could you possibly know which one and B) we have some serious doubts about that claim but we’ll let that be for now.

Does that mean the number is closer to 10? 100? I don’t feel comfortable making that guess (I can pull only so many numbers out of my butt magic hat in a day), however I do feel the urge to remind everyone that tragedies such as this weekend’s floods in Louisiana are like a gross little petri dish of opportunity for the bottom-feeders who love taking advantage of a good tragedy.

At least four people are dead, 20,000 have been rescued, and officials say it isn’t even over yet. The Nigerian Princes are going to be busy tonight stealing random images of flooding off Google and making up poorly-written sob stories about how they need help.

Now, it’s fair to say that communities are rallying together, and those who did not suffer large losses are certainly willing — if able — to assist their friends and neighbors. Awesome. And no doubt the majority of campaigns for victims of the floods are, in fact, well-intentioned. But we know all too well that there are and will be several that aren’t. The scariest part? Unless you know the campaign organizer and/or the beneficiaries of funds raised, you cannot be sure that you’re donating to the person or cause you believe you are. Truth be told, even if you know the person who started the page you can’t be absolutely sure their intent is good. Sorry, just the nature of the beast.

All that to say, be extra careful. GoFundMe’s own advice is more appropriate than ever here: only donate to people you know. If you’d like to help with gift cards, diapers, pet supplies, just about anything you can imagine including cash, The Times-Picayune has a big ole list of where and what to donate. You’ll note they did include a GoFundMe campaign from the Rho Epsilon chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority; do with that what you will.

It’s also worth reminding everyone that if you are contacted by someone you don’t know to make a donation to a GoFundMe campaign, report it posthaste. Be careful out there, the scumbags are getting increasingly aggressive. Thankfully, they’re usually sloppy too, so if something doesn’t feel right, it likely isn’t.

Stay safe, y’all!



  1. margarets

    “lousiana flood” brings up 539 results as of 11am ET, August 15

    This campaign already has nearly $25K in one day!

    Assuming this family is even aware of the campaign, isn’t it likely they have insurance for the house, car, etc?

    • Many of them probably do have insurance, however a friend of mine had her house absolutely destroyed in Sandy — the entire first floor was flooded out and nothing could be salvaged, it was completely ruined down to the floorboards — and it took quite some time to work out insurance payouts and assistance from agencies for Sandy victims. It’s also worth noting I had a car destroyed in a fluke flood many years ago and insurance did not cover it (they said it was an ‘Act of God’ and therefore not covered by our policy), the car was a total loss. So, it’s not all that out of line for people to need immediate assistance, IMHO.

      It looks like that particular fundraiser you linked includes a direct beneficiary, so the campaign owner should have sent out an invite to that family which will allow them to accept the money raised directly rather than that person withdrawing it personally.

      No campaign can be verified as 100% fraud free however I feel a lot better about this one than I do others.

      • margarets

        True, this one doesn’t seem scammy. But it’s a good example of a campaign going up before the need is properly assessed.

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