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Spotting Fake Crowdfunding Pages- Here’s How

The recent headline ‘Cancer faker Nicole Elkabbas jailed after Gofundme scam caught my eye as we had been talking recently at Tree of Hope about the issue of fake crowdfunding pages taking in unsuspecting donors.

Ms Elkabbas pretended she had cancer and used a picture of herself, actually taken when she had a routine operation in hospital in the UK to try to add validity to her story. The scam was spotted by medical staff and Ms Elkabbas has received a custodial sentence having spent the money raised on gambling, holidays and dining out.

Particularly nowadays in this long-running pandemic money is scarcer than usual for the average person and any money donated really means something to the donor. That donor also wants reassurance that the heart-rending story they have read about on social media is true, that the funding they are giving will actually go towards that those needs and that the person really has the condition they say they have. In this case none of this was checked out and the faker scammed over 700 unsuspecting donors.

One woman donated £6,000 after being involved in charity fundraising for 25 years and losing a friend to ovarian cancer. She said ‘I contacted Nicole and got taken for the ride of my life. I try not to think of that time, when I do I feel sick to the stomach. I am angry at myself for being so naive – when I stop feeling angry I feel sad this has changed me,’

Many crowdfunding sites have been putting in measures to combat fraud and those people willing to scam well-meaning donors, but whilst sites like GoFundMe has said it will refund anyone that falls victim to these fake pages the damage is done and credibility for all campaigns, real or not, is called into question.

Any campaign linked to a registered charity such as Tree of Hope will help provide significant donor reassurance as we are regulated and adhere to strict standards of fundraising best practice.

When we are approached by a family wishing to crowdfund through us, we check out the family exists and that the child has the condition and needs specified through their GP or similar. That’s a reassuring fact for those donating to campaigns linked to Tree of Hope and why so many Trusts, Foundations and donors come through our site to make their donations of support to campaigns they do not know personally.

Charity linked pages will contain a logo and a weblink- if they are not there, ask yourself – is this campaign real? Who has undertaken the checks to ensure that it is?

We work with all our families to ensure their campaigns are clear, contain full information about their child’s needs and condition and ensure their pages are regularly updated. Fake campaigns are often scant of detail, are not updated and often contain limited or library photos. If the page looks impersonal then question it. There may be no real person behind the campaign at all.

And just because your friend has supported a page doesn’t make it real unless they know the campaign subject or their family personally. People often get swept up in an emotive story, they support to do the right thing and to be seen doing it. If you’re not sure yourself wait until you are before you donate. Often real campaigns that are extremely emotive get picked up by national or local media and it can provide you real reassurance when you see them featured on TV or in the newspaper and give you the confidence to donate. At Tree of Hope we help many of our campaigns to gain media attention, knowing that it will help others see their story and donate because they know it’s real.

So, don’t let this put you off donating. But rather let our thoughts make you stop and think before donating your hard-earned money to ensure that whoever you decide to donate to, your money will make a difference to a real person with a real need.

– Gill Gibb, CEO 

What to check for when donating to a crowdfunding campaign

  • Charity logo and charity number
  • Regular updates
  • Recent photos and photo updates

 Other things to consider

  • Has the campaign had a lot of media coverage?
  • Have any high profile people put their names to it?
  • Make sure there you have a proof of transaction
  • Has the link been directed from charity website
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