Human tragedies such as the murders of at least 19 students and two adults at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas bring out the best charitable impulses of many people, but unfortunately, they also bring out the worst impulses in scammers who use tragedies such as this to solicit contributions to phony charities and GoFundMe campaigns.
GoFundMe is the most prominent crowdfunding site. Crowdfunding is the name for the process by which people raise funds on websites for various projects from movies and books to the development of new businesses and charitable purposes. Unfortunately, as I have been warning you since 2012, the potential for crowdfunding scams is tremendous. Last year in Texas, a five year old boy, Raymond Johnson died after a three year battle with cancer. Incredibly vile criminals promptly set up a GoFundMe account to steal money from sympathetic donors seeking to help out Raymond Johnson’s family. This illustrates the danger you face when donating funds through GoFundMe although by taking some precautions you can do so safely. It is important to remember that crowdfunding sites are not charities and many of them take a percentage of your donation as a fee.
You may be receiving phone calls, emails or text messages seeking contributions to charities that purport to be helping the families of the victims in Texas, but unfortunately, whenever you receive a phone call, text message or email, you can never be sure that the caller is legitimate.
Charities are not subject to the federal Do Not Call List so even if you are signed up for the federal Do Not Call List, legitimate charities are able to contact you by phone. The problem is that whenever you are get a phone call, you can never be sure as to who is really calling you so you may be contacted either by a fake charity or a scammer posing as a legitimate charity. Using a technique called spoofing, the scammers can manipulate your Caller ID to make it appear that the call is coming from a legitimate charity when it is not. Similarly, when you are solicited for a charitable contribution by email or text message you cannot be sure as to whether the person contacting you is legitimate or not.
Never provide credit card information over the phone to anyone whom you have not called or in response to an email or text message. Before you give to any charity, you should check out the charity with http://www.charitynavigator.org where you can learn whether or not the charity itself is a scam. You can also see how much of the money that the legitimate charity collects actually goes toward its charitable purposes and how much it uses for fund raising and administrative costs.
In addition to charity scams related to the Texas shootings, you can expect to receive emails, text messages and social media posts that purport to provide important information about the shootings. These communications may require you to click on links to obtain the information or videos. Unfortunately, if you do click on these links you may end up downloading dangerous malware on to your phone or computer. Never click on links from sources that you have not verified as legitimate. As for news and information about the Texas shootings, the best thing to do is to limit your sources to respected, legitimate news sources with which you are familiar.
The JOBS Act, a federal law that regulates crowdfunding was enacted in 2013, however it was only in March of 2015 that regulations were issued by the SEC to make the law effective. Even with these regulations in place, the primary burden of protecting your money in a crowd source donation falls to the individual donors Check out the person online before making a donation.
One of the good aspects of GoFundMe is its guarantee that if scams are discovered, GoFundMe will refund all donations made to the scammers. Here is a link to GoFundMe’s guarantee. https://support.gofundme.com/hc/en-us/articles/203604704-The-GoFundMe-Guarantee
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