GoFundMe Tries To Get Ahead Of Hurricane Florence Scammers

The popular crowdfunding website has already issued guidelines as the storm looms.

In this satellite image provided by U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Hurricane Florence churns through the Atlantic Ocean toward the U.S. East Coast on September 12, 2018.
NOAA / Getty Images

The popular crowdfunding website has already issued guidelines as the storm looms.

GoFundMe, the popular crowdfunding website, issued a statement this week in hopes of guiding those seeking to give to Hurricane Florence victims the proper help and dissuading the usual crop of scammers looking to a profit off the potential tragedy.

Columbia, South Carolina’s newspaper The State reported Wednesday that the tech company has been working with authorities in the Carolinas in an effort to make sure the money raised in the aftermath of the storm ends up in the proper place.

The newspaper said that GoFundMe has developed a way on its site to make sure that the money raised goes straight to the person the funds were intended for instead of the fundraiser, which is typically the case.

“Our giving community always steps up in times of need, and these preparations are to make sure their generosity is protected,” GoFundMe said in a statement Tuesday on its website. “GoFundMe’s Trust & Safety team briefed officials in North Carolina and South Carolina on the steps we take to protect donors and recipients, and we explained our guarantee that all of the funds raised on GoFundMe will get to the right place.

“… When a campaign is created to help another person or family, the funds are collected, held, and then transferred directly to the beneficiary of the GoFundMe rather than to the campaign organizer. That’s just one of the many ways we secure the platform and make sure the money quickly gets to the right party,” the crowdfunding site continued.

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GoFundMe said on its website that it would offer refunds to anyone who believed they have scammed through one of its campaigns. The company said if a person or group learns that they did not receive fund raised in their name, GoFundMe would make up the difference.

While the crowdfunding website has made for many heartwarming stories, it has been the center of some controversies as well. In the most recent incident, New Jersey couple Mark D’Amico and Katelyn McClure are under investigation after they allegedly raised $400,000 for a homeless man on GoFundMe only to be accused of taking most of the cash for themselves, CBS News reported.

The couple reportedly started the GoFundMe account for homeless veteran Johnny Bobbitt after giving McClure $20 when she ran out of gas on Interstate 95 in Philadelphia with their efforts attracting some 14,000 contributors and national television show appearances, per CBS News.

The couple’s lawyer told the network that they did nothing wrong but expect to be indicted.

Such crowdfunding efforts can bring in big money in tragedies, and make big money for the websites as well. Fast Company magazine reported last year that $4.5 million was raised for Hurricane Harvey victims alone through more than 850 different GoFundMe web campaigns.

The magazine pointed out, though, that GoFundMe also pocketed some $355,000 through a per-donation fee.