With fundraising campaigns popping up all over online and in social media, it’s not always easy to tell the real causes from the fake. Officials in Alabama say one woman faked cancer and scammed charitable givers out of $38,000.
The Alabama Attorney General’s office says she used two online GoFundMe Campaigns to reap more than $38,000 from donors who wanted to help her with medical bills and a family vacation to Disney.
The campaigns identified the woman as a terminal cancer patient, but an investigation revealed that her claim isn’t true, the AG’s office claims.
She’s not the first person to be accused of faking a serious medical condition to scam folks out of their well-meant dollars: An Illinois woman accused of faking cancer to collect charitable donations was arrested on her way to film an interview for the Dr. Phil show in 2014.
In 2015, police in Pennsylvania charged a woman with theft by deception after accusing her of faking cancer for two years to rake in thousands of dollars in donations.
Before you donate to any online fundraising campaign, you should check out these tips from the Federal Trade Commission to make sure you aren’t getting duped.
• Ask for detailed information about the charity, including name, address, and telephone number.
• Get the exact name of the organization and do some research. Searching the name of the organization online — especially with the word “complaint(s)” or “scam”— is one way to learn about its reputation.
• Call the charity. Find out if the organization is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name. The organization’s development staff should be able to help you.
• Find out if the charity or fundraiser must be registered in your state by contacting the National Association of State Charity Officials.
• Check if the charity is trustworthy by contacting the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
• Keep a record of your donations.
• Never send cash donations. For security and tax purposes, it’s best to pay by check — made payable to the charity — or by credit card.
• Never wire money to someone claiming to be a charity. Scammers often request donations to be wired because wiring money is like sending cash: once you send it, you can’t get it back.
• Do not provide your credit or check card number, bank account number or any personal information until you’ve thoroughly researched the charity.
• Be wary of charities that spring up too suddenly in response to current events and natural disasters. Even if they are legitimate, they probably don’t have the infrastructure to get the donations to the affected area or people.
If you do believe a fundraising campaign or charity is a scam, you can report it to the FTC here. You do not have to have lost money to a scam to report it