GoFundMe Campaigns: Real Needs or Donation Scams? The Backlash From a Social Experiment Gone Horribly Wrong

I have been on social media from what feels like the very beginning of time. I’ve seen websites and browsers and search engines come and go, and I’ve watched as sites such as Facebook and Instagram and Twitter bridge the divide between continents and bring people together in ways only imagined back in the 80s when I graduated high school.

As with all good things; however, there are also those that take great joy in spending their days figuring out ways to deceive others and get something for nothing. We’ve all been on the receiving end of the emails from the wealthy foreigner who needs help moving millions of dollars from his homeland and promises you a percentage as a reward for helping him, or the lottery you won that you don’t remember entering. Scammers and hackers have become a way of life, unfortunately, and they are finding new and creative ways to do so. Especially those with a soft heart who want to help every man, woman, child, and animal that they can like myself.

I have applauded the sites such as Kickstarter that help inventors get an idea off the ground, and other sites such as Indigogo and GoFundMe that help people cover medical expenses or enhance their quality of life in some way or another.

Some GoFundMe Campaigns Are Just Lies

Unfortunately, I’ve been on the receiving end of several requests for help that turned out to be scams. Such as the campaign for funds to help a girl receive treatment for cancer – only to find out that the girl in question died several years ago and that the GoFundMe campaign set up for her just copied and pasted information that her parents posted on her website.

Or what about the campaigns that ask for help with medical bills, medications, or funds to pay the rent and the utilities until the mother or father or both can get “back on their feet” or “start a new job?” There are so many of these types of campaigns that I have come across that are so blatantly dishonest, it isn’t even funny. Check the person’s Facebook page and see them on vacation living it up as though nothing was wrong – and that’s how you know your money went to something other than what they claimed.

Fallon Mouton, a sister of one of Jessica Rodriquez’s co-workers, sets up a GoFundMe account to collect donations for the family after Jessica died unexpectedly after complications from the delivery of her youngest daughter, Alyssa. The money was to help with medical bills and funeral costs and hopefully enable Moses Perez, her fiancé, to buy a gravestone for her grave. Fallon raised nearly $4,600, and then disappeared with the money.

Or the campaign that asks for $1500 from a woman who laments always being broke and unable to pay her bills so that she can move – yet she continues to spend money on frivolous items every month instead of saving that $30 or $40 “extra” to put towards the deposit and cleaning fees and first month rent.

Or how about the guy who took his car out to the race track to race it, totaled it, and then asked people to give $5,000 to him -but he doesn’t explain for what. To repair the car? To buy a new one? Or the frat house that wants you to give $10k so they can build a back deck on their Delta Chi house? Or the woman who wants you to help buy her dad’s corvette to the tune of $12k since a messy probate has left it pretty much the only thing she will inherit from his estate, but she can’t pay for it? Or how about Jake, who broke a $1,700 camera lens (business expense) and has people donating funds to help him buy another?

With the current earthquake and devastation in Nepal – you know the scammers are going to be out in full force. I recall all the scams that ran rampant across the word wide web with Hurricane Katrina and Help for Haiti after the devastating earthquake.

I am one to help anyone that I can – and I’ve donated to several online crowd funding campaigns to help perfect strangers. I also help the homeless population here in Richmond, and I do whatever I can to help those in need around our apartment complex. Even with all the scammers in the world – I still believe that people are decent, kind, compassionate, caring, and willing to help others if they can.

The Social Experiment

So I wondered what would happen if I set up a GoFundMe account for something frivolous – like repairing the screen on my iPhone 6 Plus – if people would contribute to it, ask questions, or just ignore it. I thought about posting something false – such as I needed help to pay the rent, or pay the electric bill, or my husband’s surgery bills – but I didn’t want to lie. So I came right out and said something totally frivolous and unnecessary to see what the reaction would be.

I expected that people would email me about the various kits available to repair the screen yourself, or that they would offer suggestions on where I could take it to get it repaired that would be cheaper than going through the insurance to have the phone replaced. Maybe even a few incredulous comments like, “Are you serious?” and certainly I did not expect anyone to give to the campaign. But never in a thousand years did I expect people who I know to become so vicious, nasty, and hateful with their comments as they did.

The Campaign

So on Sunday, I set about seeing how simple it would be to set up a GoFundMe campaign to get my iPhone repaired. I honestly could not believe that within the span of about 10 minutes, anyone could set up a campaign to ask for money for well – anything. The campaign has been deleted (I’ll get to why in a moment) but here is a synopsis of what the campaign stated.

2015-04-26 18.05.08 My husband and I are not going to be able to cover the cost of the insurance for at least another two to three months – and the phone screen will not last that long.

On April 21, my husband had surgery. His original surgery time was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. which meant he would not have needed to be at the hospital until 8:30 a.m. The Monday before his surgery, they called to say he needed to be at VCU Medical Center by 5AM for his 7:30AM surgery. That small change messed up everything we’d planned.

I stayed up all night long Monday night to make sure that we wouldn’t sleep through the alarm set for 4AM. Got hubby up, and got him to the hospital on time for 5AM and back home to get the boys up at 7AM and ready for school and on the bus by 8AM with the car running on fumes. Once I got the boys on the bus, I headed across the street to get gas so that I could make it back to the hospital before my husband’s surgery was finished. As I was getting out of the car and pulling the money from my pocket (where my phone was also located), the phone caught on the money and fell out of my pocket, face first on to the black top causing several cracks in the screen.

I applied a screen protector to try to keep the cracks to a minimum, but unfortunately the cracks are so extensive that it won’t allow the screen protector to stay in place – and I am constantly having to realign it. I am a blogger, and I use my phone extensively for social media postings. Unfortunately, with the cracks as bad as they are, little slivers of glass are falling off everywhere I set the phone down – and I honestly don’t expect it to last another month.

So there it was – I asked for $200 to help pay the $175 deductible for the insurance company and another $25 to cover whatever the GoFundMe fees would be. I have no idea how they do that – I’ve never set up a GoFundMe before in my life. So I shared the campaign on my personal Facebook page, Twitter, and on my Facebook fan page and sat back to wait and see what would happen. It most definitely was not what I expected.

The Campaign Backlash

I’ve posted a few controversial items on my Facebook fan page before that have gotten some snarky comments, but never anything that equaled the level of hatred that this post generated. As for my personal friends – they reacted exactly as I expected them to. They gave me a list of places where you can have your iPhone repaired for much less than the insurance deductible, they asked about whether I’d checked into fixing it myself, etc.

The comments from my blog fan page; however, literally had me in tears. I never in my life would have expected my fellow bloggers to be so blatantly hateful. I refuse to give them free press, so I’m not going to mention their names in this post, just their comments. The status update that contained the GoFundMe information was deleted within 40 minutes after being posted. I then published a status update that simply said, “It was a joke people. Seriously. Enough already. Sheesh.” These comments below are from those two status updates.

Comment: “Uh you can get the glass replaced for about $5 around here. They sell kits cheap too. Definitely an unlike on this page and the person behind it.”

Comment: “I don’t even have a phone. My daughter used a cracked phone for 2 years because she couldn’t afford to replace it.”

Comment: “Unliked this page. Unsubscribed from your newsletter. Unfollowed you on Bloglovin, Twitter, etc. Please for the love of humanity DELETE your GoFundMe. I will unfollow any blogger who contributes to this GoFundMe. This nonsense needs to stop. Seriously.”

Comment: “Im sooooo sick of GoFundMe. Entitled people, it’s so annoying.”

Comment: “I can’t even afford a phone, and this just irked me the wrong way. And no, we’re not assholes. Bitchy enough? Like I said, I don’t have a phone and I have a daughter with a brain and spine disorder. I myself have had 4 heart attacks and could have another at any time. So no, we ARE being real. You pay for it if you think she needs it that bad.”

Comment: “I have seriously like $75,000 in medical bills from a 6 pound 10 inch borderline mucous tumor I had to have removed. I still have to go to my oncologists office every three months and get blood work and an ultrasound each time. This makes me sick that you feel this entitled. Get a cheaper phone or do without.”

Comment: “I just wish I had taken screen shots of the comments. It took me so long to wrap my mind around your request that everything was deleted when I came back. GoFundMe was developed to help those who needed it at their lowest point. Sorry to hear your phone was your low point. Man I wish my phone breaking was my low point.”

Comment: “And to use her husband being in the hospital as part of her sob story for a new phone!”

Comment Response: “Tacky.”

Comment: “I reported you and your page. Your “joke” was a disgusting scam. I’ve also unfollowed you and encourage others to do the same. Hit her where it hurts.”

Comment: “I have a lady I work with that does this all the time… We don’t even talk to her anymore. New go fund me every week. Makes me sick… Get a job and if you still can’t afford anything then maybe you are living way beyond your means and it’s time to sit down and cut things out of your budget that you really don’t need.”

Comment: “Someone just got caught with their pants down! Way to go!! You’re giving good bloggers a bad name. Just sayin’!”

Comment Response: “She won’t admit it.”

Comment: “Social experiment? Hmmm…why not be honest and admit that you wanted money for a new phone.”

Comment: “I think the real joke here is your thinking you might get away with it and were low enough to mock people who legitimately need help with a “fake” story. This makes you no better than anyone else who misuses crowd funding sites. It’s also in extremely poor taste to use your family as part of your “joke”. Also, which is it? A joke or a social experiment? You keep changing your story.”

In Response

I am going to post my responses here to these allegations and comments and that will be the end of it as far as I am concerned. If you wish to no longer read the blog, or subscribe to our social media sites and newsletters – that is fine, I cannot make you stay.

  1. Was my social experiment in bad taste? Yes, in hindsight, it was. So to any of you with real issues that have used crowd funding sites to raise funds for real needs and expenses, my sincere apologies. It was never my intention to make light of people who need to use sites such as these to help them make ends meet. My intention was only to find out if people would show an interest in making a contribution for something so blatantly frivolous. Any money that would have been donated would have been promptly refunded, an explanation given, and a request to keep the experiment undisclosed until the two weeks were finished.
  2. I don’t even have a phone. Neither did I until two years ago. I was 46 years old when I received my first smart phone, an Alcatel android phone. The iPhone was a gift from my husband for Christmas 2014 – a phone that he will be making payments on each month for the next two years.
  3. Entitled people, it’s so annoying and This makes me sick that you feel this entitled. Get a cheaper phone or do without. I couldn’t agree with you more. I work – and I work hard – to earn every single thing that I have. I start working on my blog around 8-9AM every weekday until about 6-7PM in the evening. I also work most weekends for three to four hours each day. I give my absolute best to every post, campaign, social media shares, reviews and giveaways and I’m damn proud of my blog and the work that I do. I choose to be a stay-at-home-mother to my boys years ago simply because it was more cost-effective than paying my entire salary over to the sitter. My husband and I both realized that when we went from a two-income household down to one income, sacrifices would need to be made. We do not have cable. I have one pair of sneakers that have been washed so many times they have holes in them. Another pair of slip on shoes that I’ve had for a year that have holes in the bottom of the soles. I bought a new skirt and top last year, other than that, the last time I bought something new was when my daughter married in 2009 – a bra and a dress to wear to her wedding. It was the only bra that I own. I wash it out every evening and hang it up to dry. I just purchased a new one last year because the other one fell apart. 5 years – 1 bra, yup, I’m really entitled. I do this because what I earn from blogging goes towards my children – field trips, school lunches, medical bills, medication. I have a son with ADHD on two different medications that total almost $400 a month. My husband regularly sees a lung specialist, a spine specialist, a cardiologist, and his primary care physician. His medical bills alone are enough to support a third world country.
  4. And to use her husband being in the hospital as part of her sob story. I did no such thing. I simply stated the events that transpired on that date, the date that my husband was having surgery. The only connection between the two is that (a) I was rushing to get gas and return to the hospital and (b) that was when my phone fell out of my pocket.
  5. I’ve unfollowed you and encourage others to do the same. Hit her where it hurts. By all means, help yourself to the unfollow button. I do not want anyone to like my page or follow me on social media that is judgmental, hateful, spiteful, and nasty to anyone without getting all the facts and information before jumping to conclusions. Bye-bye.
  6. Maybe you are living way beyond your means. No, we are not. See my response to #2 and #3 above.
  7. Why not be honest and admit you wanted money for a new phone? Simple. I do not need the money for a new phone, I don’t need the money to pay my deductible. A claim was filed on 4/22/2015 by my husband as shown below:

Capture

And quite frankly – not that it is any of your business – I just thought I’d share my PayPal history with you as well. $86 of the total amount shown is for my Father’s Day Giveaway grand prize – the other $237.09 is mine, which was used to pay the insurance deductible on the phone.

Capture2

I don’t expect an apology from those that judged without having their facts straight, but I won’t forget the behaviors and the comments either. Once this post is published, I will post a status update to my Facebook page and that will be the end of it. If you wish to talk about me behind my back, that’s your right, and you are entitled to your opinion. However, just as  I would never disrespect any of you on your social media sites or your blog, I would ask the same courtesy in return. I went about proving a point the wrong way, and I sincerely apologize to any of my readers that I may have offended.

In Conclusion

We are all human, and we all make mistakes. I freely admit that I went about proving my point about GoFundMe and similar crowd funding campaigns the wrong way. I thank those of you who have defended me, and those of you that have waited to have the entire story before passing judgment. I made a mistake in wanting to bring light to the fact that there would be many scams with the Nepal earthquake and requests for help to help those who were affected.

As with any online transaction – be it paying a bill, ordering something from eBay, sending a donation for a Kickstarter campaign in exchange for an item, or yes, sending a donation to someone on GoFundMe that you do not know – do your homework. Verify as much information as you can, keep your receipts and correspondence, but above all else – use common sense before you hit the “donate” button.

 

Hits: 1178

harvest10_728x90_1

7 Comments

  1. I think someone earlier hit the nail on the head. The responses you received explain why bullying is so prevalent in our society today. Kids see and hear the way their parents treat others and that is what makes it acceptable to back – bite and belittle others. I am sorry you had to suffer. To be honest I avoid go fund me like the plague because of how easy it is to scam someone, but if I had seen your post I would have read your “plea for help” and moved right past it knowing that there are some people that this would be a legitimate way to raise funds.

    Currently our family it’s going through a bully situation with one of the kiddos that escalated to the point of another parent (of the bully) confronting and bullying my child. I am grateful for the opportunity this brought to teach my children how an and ultimately should act. While the mama bear in me wanted vengance, I was and able to reign in the crazy and show her that it’s her place to choose whether the bully has the power to disturb her happiness. Victim or Victor it’s your choice, not the bully’s.

    • I agree with you @melissasailorslicon:disqus. Our children learn by our example … and if we are sitting at the keyboard being rude to others, they believe that is an acceptable behavior. One thing I’ve always told my boys is that if it isn’t something they would feel comfortable with me reading or seeing – then just don’t post it. Really simple. I’ve caught some posts that they have made and promptly made them go and delete them and give the recipient an apology. I won’t tolerate it with my own kids – but I cannot control the rest of the world.

      We’re dealing with bullies too. My eldest son has managed to make it to 9th grade without much issue in that department … but for about the past month and a half … he’s literally been depressed and in tears about having to go to school throughout the week because there is a bully who has targeted him and is apparently making his life miserable. I kind of jumped on him for not telling me when it first started but when I went into his room at 5:30AM and he was sitting there with a river of tears running down his face and told me why – that was it. The mama bear claws came out and I had a few choice words to give the administration at the school … especially when they suspended him for 5 days because he just pushed this bully away from him so he could walk away. Nothing happened to the bully but you want to suspend my child for 5 days because he put his hands on another student? No. I don’t think so.

      I love that!!! Victim or Victor it’s your choice, not the bully’s. Great quote!!!

  2. I think people may have overreacted to your social experiment because when I see campaigns to raise money it is usually something tragic and vulnerable. The people who start them are in pain and as a reader you connect to them and want to do anything to helo. I try to help when I can and these people’s stories stick with me and cause me to feel sadness and worry even if the are complete strangers. So seeing your social experiment might have hit a soft spot in your readers, in a sense they were lashing out at you to protect the people they care for. Anyone using these campaigns to gain monetary rewards for frivolous things deserves the backlash that has been proven by your social experiment.

  3. I witnessed all of it and I was appalled at the response you got. Most of them being women, who more than likely have children…and we wonder why bullying is so prominent today. It all leads to their parents. I’m so sorry you had to go through the hatred of that. It was horrible!

    • Thank you so much @darcibean:disqus. I greatly appreciate your support and I know that while you didn’t agree with the way I went about doing it, you did take the time to understand my motives and understood what it was that I was attempting to do. Your support means the world to me. Thank you!

  4. I feel bad for you that people were so hateful. I feel even worse that people have to scam people. I have two legitimate needs that I have campaigns up for that nobody wants to donate to because they think I’m a scammer. It’s very sad and frustrating. How do some stupid campaigns go viral, and other real needs get ignored? I wish this wasn’t the case.

    • Unfortunately, programs like GoFundMe @katlynwomack:disqus depend on social sharing to get noticed. So in order for a campaign to be “successful” you basically have to blast it all over the world wide web every single day every place that you can. People who don’t have a life – hackers and scammers have nothing better to do then to sit behind their computer monitors every day and do exactly that. I really wish that it had not been so simple for me to set up a campaign for something so unnecessary. There should be established guidelines on what can and cannot be requested … but until the laws catch up with social media and technology – the haters are going to hate, the scammers are going to scam, and good people are going to get screwed out of money that they believe they are donating to help a family or individual in need. It’s the sad state of the world we live in I’m afraid.

      As for those who were so hateful – I actually need to thank them. This particular topic and post is the best traffic source that I’ve had in a long time and with more shares than most of my giveaways … so they can go right ahead and keep on hating and giving me free publicity. I’ll just smile and take it in stride! 🙂

THANKS FOR TAKING THE TIME TO COMMENT. WE APPRECIATE YOU!