We have discussed the issue of how to tell a GoFundMe scam from the real deal time and time again, but it bears repeating as scammers are getting more and more creative. Subsequently, they’re also getting more desperate. Their tactics continue to evolve as more and more donors educate themselves on the risks; as such, we feel it’s important to keep up with their tricks.
Here are just a few red flags to look out for before you give to any personal crowdfunding campaign.
Messages from people you don’t know
First things first: if you receive an unsolicited message from someone you don’t know on social media asking you to donate to their campaign, chances are pretty good it’s a GoFundMe scam.
Report both the campaign and the profile sending you spam messages just to be safe. And then block them.
Do your due diligence
Since many fake campaigns involve “borrowing” photos and creating stories around them, your first line of defense against a lazy GoFundMe scam is a reverse image search. Cross check any photos used in the campaign, as well as any related photos you may have found on the campaign organizer’s social media pages. If you aren’t familiar, you can find out how to do a reverse image search here.
Here’s an example of a suspected scammer — who is believed to be faking cancer in her child — ‘recycling’ photos for her own use:
The IV bag shown in the tweet is a photo taken directly from this website:
Now, it’s entirely possible the photo was unintentionally lifted, but why use a stock photo if you’re tweeting about your own alleged experience? Donor beware.
Be extra careful with viral campaigns
Another common scammer tactic is to take viral GoFundMe campaigns and adapt them for their own gain, hoping people simply won’t notice the difference.
Case in point, the Fidencio the Paleta Man campaign. At $384,000 raised and counting, it is the most successful GoFundMe campaign in Illinois to date. It’s also just asking to be hijacked by unscrupulous scammers and reposted as their own.
This YouCaring campaign has since been removed, but you get the idea.
Before you donate to a campaign such as this one that you thought you saw in the news, double-check to make sure it’s the real one. Fake campaigns usually have raised little to no funds, whereas the real ones in the news like the one above will have raised tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The story just doesn’t add up
Scammers often put up several different campaigns across several platforms just to increase the odds of tricking people into donating. It’s the same tactic Nigerian Princes use when they send millions of emails; all it takes is one vulnerable person to fall for the scam.
We recently came across someone with a GoFundMe campaign seeking $10k toward his rap album. On another platform, he was asking $25k for his son allegedly dying of cancer. Would you be worried about dropping a hot track if your kid was dying? Probably not.
Here’s another example. This person was on the /r/gofundme subreddit asking for help with her mom’s bills. On another campaign, she was asking for money for school. In both campaigns, her mother had cancer, however despite being created around the same time, neither story lined up with the other.
Taken separately, perhaps the campaign could be legitimate. In fact, it’s possible they still are. However multiple campaigns from the same person across different crowdfunding platforms is a significant red flag.
If it feels like a GoFundMe scam, it probably is
Do you know that feeling you get deep down in your gut when you’re watching a horror movie and the main character ventures into a dark, creepy basement? Like you know something really bad is about to happen?
If you come across a GoFundMe campaign and feel that same sense of impending doom, it’s best not to donate. Even if you can’t quite put your finger on it, just avoid it. You can’t get your money stolen if you don’t give any money at all.
Safe crowdfunding, y’all!