In the hours following the Astroworld festival pandemonium that left eight dead and dozens injured, requests for donations began to multiply on social networks.
Some immediately seemed genuine. The family of Brianna Rodriguez, 16, a junior at Heights High School in Houston, were seeking help with funeral expenses. Rodolfo Pena’s sister was looking for the same thing. Axel Acosta’s family were trying to raise money to travel from Washington to Texas to bring his body home and pay for his funeral.
Others were immediately suspected. There was the guy who wanted money to replace his new sneakers because they had blood on them. There were people posting their Cash App IDs and Venmo names claiming they needed help with medical bills. There were people claiming to be parents whose children died during Travis Scott’s concert at NRG Park in Houston, asking for money.
Crowdfunding is an increasingly popular method of getting financial assistance directly to people in need. Market research firm Technavio estimates crowdfunding will increase by around 15%, or $ 196 billion, by 2025.
This growth also generates more government control. Last month, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed its first crowdfunding fraud case.
Kevin Scally, relationship manager at Charity Navigator, the world’s largest nonprofit appraiser, said the success of some personal fundraisers encourages crooks to try and create fake stories to get donations.
“We always encourage people to give from their hearts,” said Scally. “But we also want them to use their heads.”
HOW TO GIVE TO AUTHENTIC CAMPAIGNS?
Scally recommends donating to registered nonprofits because they are required by the Internal Revenue Service to report how much money they collect and spend in a given year and where that money has gone. “The organization is actually audited or subject to a third party financial review,” he said. “You can be more confident knowing that the money will actually be used effectively and efficiently by the organization. “
WHAT IF I WANT TO GIVE DIRECTLY TO A PERSON?
Crowdfunding platforms are increasingly proactive in working with fundraisers to verify their identity and intentions for the money they receive.
Last week, GoFundMe and Indiegogo, two of the biggest donation platforms, co-founded the Crowdfunding Trust Alliance to make donating on their platforms even more secure.
Over the weekend, once Astroworld’s victim campaigns started appearing on its platform, GoFundMe worked to verify the identity of these fundraisers. He then created a special page for the Acosta, Pena and Rodriguez campaigns to inform donors that all funds raised would go specifically to these families.
“Crowdfunding is not shopping – people generally understand it by now – but it shouldn’t be a leap in the dark either, and it certainly can’t be a scam,” wrote Will Haines, vice. -President of Products and Customer Trust at Indiegogo, in a blog post last week. He added that users want the platform to be “a safe and trusted space to engage in innovation.”
WHAT HAPPENS IF I FIND OUT THAT I HAVE GIVEN TO A FAKE CAMPAIGN?
Many platforms are working harder to support donors. GoFundMe has created a guarantee that it says is “the first and only of its kind in the fundraising industry.” If a campaign comes off in the wrong light or if funds do not reach the intended beneficiaries, donors may be eligible for a full refund.
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