In 2015, 22-year-old SUNY Brockport student Collin Murray drowned in the Erie Canal just days before he was supposed to graduate.

Now New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says his office has filed charges against a woman named Meghan Terry, who started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for a memorial scholarship fund in Murray’s name.

Here’s an archived copy of the GoFundMe page for your reading pleasure.

Back to the State AG, his office released this press release regarding his office’s action against Terry:

Meghan Terry, of Endicott, NY, began a GoFundMe fundraising campaign last year to raise money for a scholarship fund established in the name of Collin Murray, a Binghamton area resident who tragically died in 2015 while attending SUNY Brockport. The lawsuit alleges that Ms. Terry raised almost $2,600, after expenses, but only turned over $1,330 for the scholarship fund.

“New Yorkers are charitable and generous people who pull together to help those in need,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “When individuals take advantage of this giving spirit to defraud neighbors in need, my office will hold them accountable. New Yorkers should continue to support worthy charitable causes and follow a few basic tips to ensure donations are used as intended.”

Attorney General Schneiderman’s lawsuit aims to compel Ms. Terry to turn over the remaining $1,257.76 in donations to the Attorney General’s Office to disburse the funds for the intended charitable purpose. The lawsuit also aims to prohibit Ms. Terry from ever soliciting, receiving, holding, controlling, or managing charitable funds in the future. Ms. Terry would also be compelled to pay an additional $2,000 in costs to the Attorney General’s Office.

Schneiderman’s office also took this opportunity to warn potential donors of the risks of crowdfunding, tips which you can find below.

Tips for Consumers 

There are many different crowdfunding platforms. Make sure you understand how the platform you are using works:

  • Use reputable, well-established websites with a known track record. Some crowdfunding websites vet projects and others do not. You should understand what the website requires from a campaign before it is posted.
  • Know what you are getting for your contribution. In some cases your contribution will be a donation, and in others it may entitle you to a product or a share of a company.
  • Know what protections the crowdfunding platform provides. In most cases, the platform will not reimburse you if a campaign fails to deliver what it promised.
  • Your first line of defense when donating is to check the terms and conditions of crowdfunding websites. There are several important questions you should ask when reviewing terms and conditions:
    • Is the website vouching for the credibility of the charitable cause?
    • Does the website check to see if funds raised are going towards the intended purpose stated on the website?
    • If I believe my donation did not go towards its intended purpose, what recourse do I have to get a refund?
  • Understand if there are any fees associated with each contribution and whether a crowdfunding website is retaining a portion of your contribution.
  • Don’t give out sensitive personal information such as a Social Security number or password to anyone who solicits a contribution from you. When donating online, make sure the website is secure and includes ‘https’ in the web address. Donating with a credit card provides more protection than a check while still offering a paper trail documenting the transaction.

Thoroughly research the project before contributing:

  • Be wary of campaigns with few details. Credible projects will have established web and social media presence, and offer regular updates.
  • Check the campaign creator’s social media accounts to confirm identities and real-world connections.
  • Many crowdfunding platforms will let you write to a project’s creator. Ask questions and review how the creator has responded to others.
  • Compare details with other campaigns for similar products. If it seems too good to be true, it usually is.

You’ll also note that his office made it clear they take crowdfunding fraud seriously; New Yorkers who believe they have been a victim of a scam should file a complaint with AG Schneiderman’s office by calling the consumer helpline at 1-800-771-7755, emailing the Charities bureau at charities.bureau@ag.ny.gov or filing a complaint at www.ag.ny.gov.