Do your research before donating to an online fundraising campaign: Better Business Bureau

When you see an online campaign set up to raise money for a cause, how do you know it’s legitimate?

That question is being raised after police say two Florida parents lied to their son about having brain cancer in order to raise money on his behalf for non-existent medical expenses via GoFundMe.

GoFundMe Spokesperson Bobby Whithorn says in the instances where individuals commit fraud, they are banned and donors are refunded.

But he also says it’s a rare occurrence.

Whithorn says it’s also best to look for donor protection, so that if there are any issues, you’ll get your money back.

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“If a donor has a question about a campaign, we ask them, or we encourage them, to contact the campaign organizer and they can ask them questions directly on the campaign page there… Or if they have a question about the campaign, they can contact us directly as well and we can provide some additional information,” Whithorn said.

“We also encourage campaign organizers to be [as] transparent as possible about their fundraising and provide updates about what they’re raising money for.”

But Evan Kelly with the Better Business Bureau in British Columbia says there aren’t really any regulations around online fundraisers.

He says you need to have a buy-beware mentality.

“Because they’re not registered, they’re not gonna be issuing anything like any sort of a tax receipt, but that’s of course if they’re trying to raise money for a cause. Now it’s different if you’re trying to raise money for like a new business, or a startup, or a product,” Kelly said.

“In cases like that, the people giving the money more often than not can actually get something back in terms of maybe… a discount on the product, or the product itself for helping kick start the business.”

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Kelly says the Canadian Revenue Agency website maintains a list of reputable and registered charities.

“Understand that you’re just giving money away, you don’t necessarily know who is behind these initiatives and you just want to do a lot more homework on that,” he advises.

The Competition Bureau says if you have been the victim of a charity scam to report it to them, the Canada Anti-Fraud Centre, RCMP or local police.

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