Donors cautioned about potential fraud on GoFundMe, similar crowdsourcing sites
FARGO - Donors beware. That's the advice local police have for anyone thinking of donating money through a crowdsourcing website like GoFundMe. "We're always encouraging all of our citizens to do a back-check before they provide any funding," Moo...
FARGO – Donors beware.
That's the advice local police have for anyone thinking of donating money through a crowdsourcing website like GoFundMe.
"We're always encouraging all of our citizens to do a back-check before they provide any funding," Moorhead Police Lt. Tory Jacobson said. In other words, "Do your homework on the front end."
This reminder comes as investigators look into a possible scam involving a GoFundMe account created to help the grieving families of three men from Baudette, Minn., who went missing on Lake of the Woods.
The case is one of several reported frauds around the country linked to crowdsourcing efforts that purported to fund good causes. "Quite often people are overly trusting," Jacobson said, "but their heart is in the right place."
Notably, a woman who falsely claimed she was injured in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing raised more than $9,000 through GoFundMe. She later pleaded guilty to theft charges.
The GoFundMe account for the three Baudette men was set up after their boat was found capsized in October on Lake of the Woods, just south of the Canadian border. The bodies of two of the men were located about a week after they went missing, and the third man's body has not been found.
In three months, the GoFundMe account for the families of the men drew donations from almost 400 people, totaling over $27,000. In January, the mother of one of the victims reported a possible theft from the account, which was managed by a woman not related to the men.
On Tuesday, Lake of the Woods County Sheriff Gary Fish said the case is still under investigation, and no one has been arrested or charged.
Because there's no way to completely guarantee that a cause is bona fide, the GoFundMe site says donors should only give money to accounts created by people they personally know and trust.
GoFundMe urges donors to only submit money by clicking the "Donate Now" button. Causes that ask donors to use any alternative payment methods should be avoided, the site says.
Police in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo say they haven't heard of crowdsourcing scams in their jurisdictions. But they say there's always potential for fraud in various forms.
Regarding charitable causes, West Fargo Police Chief Mike Reitan says donors should be sure they know who's collecting the money and for what purpose.
"I always encourage people to make a donation directly to the organization that they have interest in supporting," he said.
Fargo Police Sgt. Carlos Nestler says residents should exercise caution in any financial transactions over the Internet.
"Go into it thinking everything's a scam," he said. "You have no idea who you're dealing with."
Becky Jacobs of the Grand Forks Herald contributed to this report.