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GoFundMe scams emerge after Las Vegas shooting, other tragedies

Updated October 15, 2017 - 6:07 pm

Fraudulent posts to crowdfunding websites are common after highly publicized tragedies such as the Mandalay Bay shooting.

A Massachusetts woman scammed GoFundMe donors out of more than $9,000 when she falsely claimed to have been a victim of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Last year, the site had to shut down two fraudulent accounts that purported to benefit the families of Palm Springs, California, police officers killed in the line of duty.

Also in 2016, The Associated Press reviewed 30 GoFundMe campaigns that sprang up in the wake of the Orlando nightclub shooting and found that “most campaigns lacked key details, such as exactly what the donations would cover or even who was asking for them.”

In one mass casualty event after another, authorities have issued warnings like the one Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt sent out recently, cautioning state residents about “many illegitimate GoFundMe accounts and sham charities unimaginably trying to profit from” the Oct. 1 shooting at the Route 91 Harvest festival.

Last week, The Orange County Register reported that the family of 39-year-old Brian Fraser, who was killed in the Las Vegas shooting, identified a fraudulent GoFundMe site trying to take advantage of his death. That GoFundMe page was taken down.

“My office is working with the crowdsourcing platform to ensure donors’ generosity and good will are not capitalized upon by scammers,” Laxalt said in an Oct. 5 statement.

A website, gofraudme.com, tracks and reports GoFundMe fraud. Its mission statement says: “We believe that donors should be empowered to make smart decisions about their money. In absence of stronger fraud prevention efforts on the part of crowdfunding platforms such as GoFundMe, we aim to educate, inform, and protect donors and potential donors.”

Contact Brian Joseph at bjoseph@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5208. Follow @bjoseph1 on Twitter.

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