BBB Scam Warning: When disasters strike, be cautious of crowdfunding sites

INDIANA – Recent natural disasters such as Hurricane Ida in Louisiana, Tropical Storm Henri in the northeastern United States, floods in Tennessee, wildfires in the west – as well as the plight of Afghan refugees have resulted in numerous online fundraising campaigns.

Crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe and IndieGoGo (both BBB Accredited Businesses) are used to help share the stories of individuals, families, and communities in need and to solicit funds from generous donors. 

Unfortunately, these situations also provide an opportunity for scammers to set up fundraising accounts to misdirect funds intended for victims and those recovering from disasters. BBB is warning would-be donors to be cautious when giving on crowdfunding sites, particularly if they do not know the individuals involved. 

GoFundMe reached out to BBB to share information on how to determine if a fundraiser is legitimate and about their centralized hub for identifying verified fundraisers related to the storm. IndieGogo also has information on how to evaluate a campaign

Tips for Donors  

Here are tips donors can take to protect themselves and contributions made during relief efforts: 

Review the fundraiser page. Does the fundraiser have a clear title, image, and story? Be cautious if the description is vague. Seek out appeals that are upfront and clear about what disaster relief services you are supporting.  

Understand the use of funds. What is the purpose of the fundraiser and is the organizer transparent about how funds will be used? Watch out for claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims. The organization is probably still incurring administrative and fundraising expenses, even if it is using other funds to cover these costs.  

Check the beneficiary connection. How is the organizer related to the recipient of the funds? Some fundraisers may be raising money to pass along to relief organizations.  If so, you may want to consider “avoiding the middleman” and giving directly to those that have a presence in the region.  

Look at the comments and donations. Are direct family, friends or community members making donations and leaving supportive comments? Keep in mind that some crowdfunding sites do very little vetting of individuals who decide to post for assistance after a disaster, and it is often difficult for donors to verify the trustworthiness of crowdfunding requests for support.  

For more information: 

BBB tips on charitable giving after a natural disaster and what to know before giving on a crowdfunding site