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BBB scam alert: Copycat crowdfunding campaigns popping up following Buffalo Bills player's injury


Fri, Jan 6th 2023 04:05 pm

Submitted by the Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York 

Millions of people watched Monday night as Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Millions of dollars have also flowed into the children’s toy drive Hamlin supports in his hometown of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, as fans all over the country want to support the 24-year-old, who has been hospitalized since being carted off the field. In the days since the incident, more than $7 million in donations have been made to the toy drive.

Of course, where there is a lot of money, there are scammers looking to cash in. The Better Business Bureaus of Upstate New York and Western Pennsylvania are warning fans to look out for fake or fraudulent crowdfunding 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.”

This 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.

GoFundMe, a BBB accredited business, is monitoring the requests for donations. According to them, 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,” a GoFundMe spokesperson said. “We have zero tolerance for the misuse of our platform.”

BBB offers these tips to those who are 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.

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