Crowdfunding Charity Scams Flourish During Holidays — How To Protect Your Donations

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Tis’ the season for giving, especially with Giving Tuesday just around the corner. But scammers certainly won’t be taking a holiday according to a recent AARP poll. Charity scams are quite common during the Christmas season, with 38% of respondents saying they have received a suspicious donation request. Among them, crowdfunding requests have become more recurrent.

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AARP notes that Americans should be very cautious about crowdfunding, notably by taking time to examine appeals on sites such as GoFundMe, Kickstarter and Indiegogo. “Scammers have been known to use these sites for bogus appeals, even posting pilfered photos from legitimate causes,” their website stated.

In addition, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has shared several other tips to avoid being scammed. For example, it recommends doing a reverse image search of the photos on the crowdfunding campaign page, as well as a reverse image search of the campaign organizer’s social media profile picture.

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“Scammers often use stolen photos and copy and paste other people’s stories. If you find anything suspicious, you can always help in a different way,” the FTC noted.

Then, if someone you know posted the request on social media, also find out who’s behind the crowdfunding request. The crowdfunding platform should tell you who the organizer is.

“If you can’t find them online, or the details you find don’t match what they’re saying on the campaign page, be suspicious,” according to the FTC, adding that the safest way to give is to donate to campaigns organized by people you know and trust.

In addition, to protect yourself, the FTC recommends making a donation with a credit card — which can offer some protection if something goes wrong — as opposed to a wire transfer, gift card or cryptocurrency, for example.

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Finally, the FTC warned that if you spot a crowdfunding scam, you should report it directly to the platform and the FTC.

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.
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