GoFundMe’s response to dodgy users. Picture: iStock
GoFundMe’s response to dodgy users. Picture: iStock

GoFundMe offering $1k refunds to users

CROWD-FUNDING sites help users easily raise money for any cause they deem worthy, but unfortunately there are those who seek to take advantage of people's generosity.

While the chances of fraudulent campaigns getting through the verification process are very slim, it has been known to happen and donators have paid the price.

So now, in a bid to protect their users, GoFundMe is introducing a new policy that takes aim at dodgy campaigners.

The GoFundMe Guarantee means users are entitled to a refund of up to $1000 if they discover a campaign they donated to was deceptive or misused in some way.

The new policy will also see the joining fees slashed to zero. Picture: GoFundMe/Supplied
The new policy will also see the joining fees slashed to zero. Picture: GoFundMe/Supplied

Donors are eligible for a refund if the campaign organiser does not deliver the funds to the intended beneficiary, the campaign content is misleading or inaccurate, or if the campaign organiser is formally charged with a crime related to their actions regarding the campaign.

GoFundMe CEO Rob Solomon told news.com.au that the aim was to make the company the safest crowd-funding service in the world.

"The guarantee is something we put in place in the US market a few years ago and now we have brought it to Australia," he said.

"It is important that we add as much protection as possible for our users. We want to be the safest crowd-funding platform out there."

He said that even though the percentage of fraudulent campaigns is very small, there are still people closely monitoring every report that comes through.

"We have thousands of campaigns every year that raise millions of dollars for great causes. Less than one tenth of one per cent of all campaigns have fraudulent activities," Mr Solomon said.

Donors who believe they have been misled by a campaign may apply for a refund. Picture: iStock
Donors who believe they have been misled by a campaign may apply for a refund. Picture: iStock

There was a recent case where a Queensland woman, Lucy Wieland, used a fake cancer diagnosis to scam almost $55,000 in donations.

On the now deleted GoFundMe page, the 27-year-old claimed she only had a year to live due to an aggressive form of ovarian cancer spreading to her kidneys, liver, pancreas, bowel and stomach lining.

She said her only hope was to "move away from generic western medicine" and she needed money to move overseas to find alternative methods.

Wieland was arrested last week and faces charges of fraud.

This is exactly the type of misuse of the platform that donors will be protected against, with GoFundMe telling the Courier Mail that all of the donors would be getting their money back.

Lucy Wieland, 27, was charged with one count of fraud for allegedly creating a fundraising scam after lying about having ovarian cancer. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Lucy Wieland, 27, was charged with one count of fraud for allegedly creating a fundraising scam after lying about having ovarian cancer. Picture: Alix Sweeney

Circumstances that do not entitle donors to a refund include seeking a refund for a donation to your own campaign, regretting a donation, a personal disagreement with the organiser or a refund for a donation made off the platform.

It isn't just donators who will benefit from this new policy. There is also protection in place for people having funds raised for them by a third party.

When a user sets up a donation page for someone else there is the risk that they may try to keep the donations for themselves rather than passing them on to the indented recipient.

If this happens, GoFundMe will be able to donate the undelivered amount, up to $25,000, to the right person.

"In the case of money not being delivered to the right person we will work with you and the person holding the money directly," Mr Solomon told news.com.au.

The risk of encountering a dodgy user is very low. Picture: iStock
The risk of encountering a dodgy user is very low. Picture: iStock

"If they still refuse to relinquish the fund, we will work with local law enforcement as it is a form of fraud."

But he added because of their thorough verification process, the risk of the money being taken by the wrong person is very slim.

The new policy will also see users enjoy a 0 per cent joining fee, as GoFundMe scraps the previous 5 per cent fee to make it more accessible.

"Australia has been one of the fasted growing giving communities we have. One in 12 Australians have given to a GoFundMe campaign, raising more than $200 million," Mr Solomon said.

"In offering a free platform we are able to get more money to more people. All of the money raised, minus credit card fees, will go to the cause.

"We thought this was a really important change to make."

 

She reportedly faked numerous surgeries and treatments.
She reportedly faked numerous surgeries and treatments.


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