Verify: Where is your GoFundMe donation going?

Godwin GoFundMe Pages - Verify - Tiffany Tarpley

CLEVELAND -- When there’s a tragedy receiving national attention, often times you’ll find scammers looking to profit. 

Recently, there’s been confusion over GoFundMe accounts created for the victim of Cleveland's Facebook video murder.

Monday morning Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams addressed the situation during a news conference saying he spoke with 74-year-old Robert Godwin’s family.

“If you see an account out there in the name of Mr. Godwin please, at this time, do not contribute to that account.”

However, in a statement, GoFundMe representatives say they will make sure the money raised will go to the proper people. 

“We have spoken with the GoFundMe campaign organizer, members of the family, and local authorities,” said Bobby Whithorne in a written statement to WKYC. “We’ll guarantee the money will be deposited directly into the family’s bank account.”

Here’s the link to that specific account.

But a quick check of GoFundMe’s website shows there are multiple accounts set up using Godwin’s name.

“Regardless, all funds raised for the Godwins will be transferred directly to the family,” explains Whithorne.

So, when it comes to crowdfunding sites in general, like GoFundMe, how do you ensure your money is going to the right place?

Managing Attorney for the Cleveland office of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Michelle Gillcrist, says they have received crowdfunding complaints.

"Sometimes people haven’t read the fine print and they’re not getting the product delivered to them that they thought they were going to."

Gillcrist also says they’ve received complaints from both sides, people who are donating and people who are receiving the money.

“We also had a complaint from a charity where somebody had set up a crowdfunding site for them yet they had not given them permission to do so nor had anybody on their board of trustees.”

Here are three tips to help you decide how to donate:

  • Do your research-Verify those funds are actually going to help the individual listed. If they say the money is going to a bank account, contact the bank to see if the account has been set up.
  • Contact the charity- Call the charity to see if the person has been given permission to raise the funds for them.
  • Look for red flags- Watch out for names that have sites similar to well-regarded charitable organizations.

She also recommends checking with the Attorney General’s website, Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator or other reliable sites. 

“But if there’s something out there that doesn’t feel right or seems like it’s a red flag dig a little deeper or maybe give in another way, other than using a crowdfunding site,” says Gillcrist.

WKYC also checked with the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office and we were told the Economic Crimes Unit successfully prosecuted a case where a local DJ was sentenced to prison after embezzling more than $7,000 from funds raised through a GoFundMe account.

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© 2017 WKYC-TV


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