In particular, NSW Police said to “be careful about crowd-funding requests as these may be fake and also come from scammers”.
Brigid Bates has experienced this scam first-hand.
After Ms Bates lost her Batlow home to a bushfire, her friends and family wanted to help her support herself, her husband and her two sons but didn’t know how. So she started a GoFundMe page.
Almost immediately, scammers stole her picture and her tragic story to set up their own crowd-funding page.
“That was a low point,” Ms Bates said this morning when asked how she felt about scammers stealing her identity.
“I actually felt worse than when I found out that my house has burned down. The pit of my stomach dropped because there was someone preying on the generosity of … my family, my friends, sending direct messages that looked like they had come from me to donate to this scam page.”
She quickly notified people of the fake page and discovered that only one of her friends had fallen for it.
The scammers then set up two more fake pages with her photo on them.
In the end, Ms Bates’s brother Brendan set up a GoFundMe page to make it harder for scammers.
The near miss has left Ms Bates more cautious.
“I don’t want to deter people from donating to causes that they see fit, but please do your due diligence and try and check that it is legitimate,” she said.
“If you receive a direct message from a profile, maybe open up that profile. If they have never had a post or a photo or you don’t recognise it, the chances are it may be fake.
“So, maybe have a look at who the organiser of the fundraiser is and see if you can contact them. Send them a message and just say: ‘Hey, how are you going, is this your legitimate fundraiser?’ It can’t hurt to just double-check and protect yourself.”
The police had similar advice, which they told news.com.au.
They said “to be vigilant and always check the legitimacy of people asking for donations”.
“Do not donate via fundraising pages on platforms that do not verify the legitimacy of the fundraiser or that do not guarantee your money will be returned if the page is determined to be fraudulent,” they said.
“Be careful about crowd-funding requests as these may be fake and also come from scammers. Check the terms and conditions of funding platforms and ensure you are dealing with official organisations.
“If you are unsure, make your donation to an established charity instead.”