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Crowdsourcing Is ‘Buyer Beware’

It’s sad, but true. When tragedy strikes, someone is ready to take your money in the guise of a good cause. This is true for large events — recent mass shootings and hurricanes — and for ones that hit closer to home.

In the last three weeks, Polk County has lost many to car crashes. A GoFundMe account was set up for one in late September to pay for “funeral expenses.” A week later, the father of the deceased told us he had already covered the costs of the funeral and posed the question: Who is raising this money, and what is it really for?

A more recent tragedy has two GoFundMe accounts claiming to raise money for the same thing.

The market is ripe for scammers in the world of crowdsourcing.

Ellen Klem, director of consumer outreach and education for the Office of the Attorney General, says that when it comes to crowdsourcing, it really is buyer beware.

“My best piece of advice is do your research — as much research as possible,” she said.

Remember that any promises made on one of these sites are not contracts. What the person does with the money is up to them, with no requirements to report to donors.

Read the terms and conditions of the site you donate to before you pledge money.

For GoFundMe, users can withdraw money at any time without affecting the appearance of reaching the goal. If you wouldn’t hand over that much cash to someone, reconsider using crowdsourcing.

If practical, consider donating to an established, registered organization or nonprofit. If it’s funeral expenses that are being requested, call the funeral home and donate directly to it.

Klem says that, while crowdsourcing is not well regulated, there are laws in place for outright fraud. If you suspect a fraud, report it to the Attorney General’s office at oregonconsumer.gov.

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