BBB: Scammers Using Crowd Funding Scam Taking Advantage of Bills Tragedy
It's now officially ESPN's mot watched program ever as millions of people watched MNF as Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Since then, millions of dollars have also flowed into the children’s toy drive Hamlin supports in his hometown in Pennsylvania, as fans all around the country want to support the 24-year-old, who has been hospitalized since being carted off the field. So far, nearly $8 million in donations have poured in via the GoFundMe page.
Now, scammers are looking to make big money off the tragedy. The Better Business Bureaus of Upstate New York are warning people to look out for fake or fraudulent online charity campaigns.
“Everyone feels awful about what happened to this young man and just wants to help in any way possible,” said Warren Clark, CEO of BBB of Upstate New York. “It’s understandable and commendable that people want to donate money to his cause, but we must be vigilant. We must take the time to ensure the money is going to the right place.”
Hamlin's fundraiser has been verified on behalf of the Hamlin family; it was started by Damar Hamlin in 2020 to benefit the Chasing M's Foundation. It's verified and authentic as GoFundMe, a BBB accredited business, is monitoring the requests for donations. That doesn't mean all fund drives are legitimate, even though GoFundMe's policy is that any fundraiser that is not authorized by the recipient of the funds will be removed.
“When suspicious activity is flagged – whether through our tools, our community, or simply because a fundraiser starts gaining momentum – our team will immediately investigate to verify its legitimacy,” said a GoFundMe spokesperson. “We have zero tolerance for the misuse of our platform.”
BBB is warning people in Upstate New York and around the country to beware of fake fund drives in the name of Damar Hamlin. Sadly, there are bad actors out there will to stoop very low to steal people's money.
The Better Business Bureau is offering tips to people looking to donate:
•Don't assume pictures represent an official connection to the person or family identified. Unfortunately, some crowdfunding postings may be using pictures of victims without the permission of their families. As a result, you can't assume the poster has an official connection. Again, each site has different rules on what they allow. As a donor, it is up to you to approach with caution, especially after a tragedy or disaster.
•Not all crowdfunding sites operate alike. Some crowdfunding platforms do a better job of vetting postings and projects that appear on their sites than others. Review the site's description of its procedures. If they do take precautions, they generally announce that fact loudly to help encourage giving. For example, if a posting is claiming to be raising funds to help a victim and/or their family after a tragedy or disaster, some sites may hold the funds collected and distribute them directly to the identified family or charity. Other sites may rely on the individual soliciting funds to follow through on their promised assistance.
Visit the BBB Wise Giving Alliance website, Give.org, for more information on charitable giving.
If you've been the victim of a charity scam, help others avoid the same fate by reporting your experience at BBB.org/scamtracker.