So you think you found a fraudulent crowdfunding campaign. What can you do about it? I’m glad you asked. Although the platform claims “nearly all GoFundMe campaigns are accurate and funds are delivered and used for their stated purpose,” this website wouldn’t exist if GoFundMe fraud weren’t a serious and pervasive issue.
Report GoFundMe fraud
Before you get trigger-happy on the Report button, it would be helpful to know what kind of fraud you think it is. Campaign owners are bound by GoFundMe’s Terms and Conditions, which do outline certain behaviors which are prohibited on the platform. You’re going to have the best luck shutting down a fraudulent GoFundMe page if you can prove it is in violation of these terms.
As of 12/2015, the following are prohibited in GoFundMe campaigns:
- any activity that violates any law or governmental regulation;
- content or campaigns that are fraudulent, misleading, inaccurate or dishonest;
- illegal drugs, narcotics, steroids, controlled substances or other products that present a risk to consumer safety or any related paraphernalia;
- knives, explosives, ammunition, firearms, or other weaponry or accessories;
- annuities, investments, equity or lottery contracts, lay-away systems, off-shore banking or similar transactions, money service businesses (including currency exchanges, check cashing or the like), debt collection or crypto-currencies;
- gambling, gaming and/or any other activity with an entry fee and a prize, including, but not limited to casino games, sports betting, fantasy sports, horse or greyhound racing, lottery tickets, other ventures that facilitate gambling, games of skill or chance (whether or not it is legally defined as a lottery) or sweepstakes;
- the promotion of hate, violence, harassment, discrimination or terrorism, or racial, ethnic, or gender intolerance of any kind;
- activities with, in, or involving countries, regions, governments, persons, or entities (including but not limited to Specially Designated Nationals) that are subject to U.S. economic sanctions, unless authorized by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, U.S. Department of the Treasury;
- human trafficking or exploitation;
- pornography or other sexual content;
- offensive, graphic, perverse or sensitive content;
- the defense or support of anyone alleged to be involved in criminal activity;
- offering monetary rewards, including gift cards;
- funding an abortion;
- ending the life of an animal;
- transactions for the sale of items before the seller has control or possession of the item;
- collection of payments on behalf of merchants by payment processors or otherwise; or
- credit repair or debt settlement services.
A large portion of the messages we get from people asking for help in shutting down scam campaigns fall under content or campaigns that are fraudulent, misleading, inaccurate or dishonest; it just so happens that’s also the most difficult violation to prove. Think about it: a GoFundMe page that explicitly requests donations for cocaine, abortions, and/or dildos is a flagrant violation of the rules. However, a page that purports to exist for one purpose (say, “Help Scummy Sally avoid eviction”) but actually exists for another, unspoken purpose (“actually, all your donations will go toward Scummy Sally’s cocaine habit”) is much harder to prove. How do you know Scummy Sally won’t spend the money on back rent? Unless of course you’re Scummy Sally’s drug dealer, in which case you have intimate knowledge of her finances.
GoFundMe doesn’t know Scummy Sally and with 100,000 new fundraisers started every single month, they have no way to know which Scummy Sally of the countless Scummy Sallies on their site are actually snorting up their crowdfunding money. So if you’re taking it upon yourself to report a fundraiser you believe to be fraudulent, you need to have your evidence ready.
How to report a fraudulent GoFundMe page
So, head to her campaign and then scroll down to the bottom and hit the handy dandy report button:
From here, you’ll be presented with a set of options. It’s obvious which one you should pick but fuck it, we’ll tell you anyway:
From there, you’ll get a set of FAQs. Most notable:
“Personal disputes between two parties will be ignored.”
Let me repeat that on GoFundMe’s behalf:
“Personal disputes between two parties will be ignored.”
What that means is that if you and Scummy Sally used to be friends but for whatever reason got all pissed at each other and now you want to hate on her GoFundMe page, they could not possibly care less. Don’t use the Report button to troll people you don’t like or high school friends on your Facebook page using GoFundMe for reasons you find morally repugnant. There will always be campaigns that straddle the line between ethical and dubious but it isn’t your job to be the crowdfunding police.
Now, if you are sure the campaign is fraudulent and not just stupid or ridiculous (to date, being a jackass on GoFundMe is not illegal), you can scroll down further:
Before you take that step, ask yourself if the suspected fraud falls under GoFundMe guidelines for possible fraud:
- They are intentionally including factually incorrect information on their campaign.
- They have not used the funds that were raised for the stated purpose within a reasonable amount of time.
- They are impersonating someone else or have copied a campaign that already exists on GoFundMe.
From there, you’ll fill out your information and explain why you think the fundraiser is fraudulent. This step is the most important and I say this with the utmost respect but holy shit, please try to form complete sentences. I can’t tell you how many messages I get that are written using 2nd grade English and lacking any sort of logic or point. GoFundMe can’t help you if they can’t understand you. So be succinct, be informative, and above all else be sensible. They don’t care about your backstory or how Scummy Sally kicked your cat that one time 20 years ago, stick to the facts surrounding the campaign and why you believe it to be fraudulent.
It seems that GoFundMe is most responsive to actual donors rather than concerned third parties who haven’t actually been ripped off by a GoFundMe fraudster, so if you gave to the campaign in question be sure to note that.
Being that it’s a relatively new phenomenon and growing leaps and bounds every day, crowdfunding is still a new technology and as such, policing it can be a tricky business. Staying diligent and reporting any suspect pages does help, at least until law enforcement is better empowered to prosecute offenders and crowdfunding platforms themselves find a way to weed out questionable campaigns. Until that time comes, we’ll be here.
GoFundMe Refund Policy
As of October 2016, GoFundMe now offers The GoFundMe Guarantee. What this means is that if the campaign and your donation meet certain terms, you can get your money back.
If you believe you have been a victim of GoFundMe fraud, then follow this link to beg and plead to get your money back. And good luck.
Report Fraud to Us
If you need additional assistance, you can report GoFundMe fraud to us and we’ll look into it. Please have evidence ready to corroborate your claim, and keep in mind we aren’t the police nor are we GoFundMe, so we can’t remove campaigns or prosecute scammers.