June 23, 2017

GoFund my scam

The company that aims to be the charity of the internet has a bit of a fraud problem.

Online fundraising site GoFundMe has grown to 40m users and raised $2B for charity by channeling internet user sympathy into real life impact.

Shivonie Deokaran used the platform to raise $60k for leukemia. Tamer Moumen mussed up $30k for Syrian refugees. Some dude even solicited $6k for a cat that was buried alive.

Which would all be awesome except for one minor detail: those campaigns were all fakes.

Or “misused funds” as GoFundMe called them

The company maintains that fakes account for only 0.1% of their campaigns — but to Adrienne Gonzalez, creator of GoFraudMe, that’s 0.1% too many.

The fraud-buster has devoted her time to identifying, and publicly calling out, scammy campaigns. And she says there is no shortage of fakes: she recently caught 7 in one day.

After she finds a fake campaign, she posts it to her site and contacts GoFundMe. Unfortunately, getting them to take one down is often a slow or ineffectual process. That cat story above? The campaign creators still got their money despite documented proof and an online petition proving they had no association with the feline.

Wait, wait…is GoFundMe in on this?

The for-profit site takes a 7.9% cut of all funds raised through its platform — so they might not be incentivized to shut down millions in donations, even to the wrong people.

Taking a cut for operational costs is a fairly common practice in charity (Red Cross takes 9% of donations) — so we’d like to think this is more a bandwidth issue.

In the meantime, we’ll thank Gonzalez for helping to shine a light on the darkest of internet circles.

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