By Marcy Stamper
Donors and beneficiaries to fundraising campaigns for people affected by the summer’s fires and floods are advised to be alert to the potential for scams and fraud. There have been reports of people who have set up online campaigns receiving calls requesting account numbers so that they can “receive” contributions.
Because online campaigns such as GoFundMe.com and YouCaring.com generally include identifying information as part of the stories people present to make their needs compelling, scammers may take advantage of a situation and try to contact people directly.
Beau Buell Adams, chief financial officer at Farmers State Bank in Winthrop, reminds customers never to give out account numbers to anyone requesting them over the phone or by email. Buell said Farmers Bank has not received reports of fraud in conjunction with these fundraising efforts.
Both GoFundMe.com and YouCaring.com remind people that personal information and the donation process are secure and encrypted. At GoFundMe, donations are stored until the beneficiary requests a withdrawal by check or electronic bank transfer.
Still, a campaign is not completely private. People can hide their campaign from the GoFundMe directory, but anyone who gets the link from a friend or a site such as Facebook will be able to view the campaign, according to the fund’s website.
GoFundMe asks people to report any solicitations or questionable activities through its “contact” page.
In addition, the fund warns, “Do not provide your personal contact information, such as phone number, to anyone that requests it. Exercise caution if you receive offers from 3rd-party fundraising companies or individuals offering personal assistance.”
Anyone who believes he or she has been a victim of a scam or who has received a fraudulent solicitation connected with a disaster should contact the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud at (866) 720-5721.