How Scammers Looking for Money Prey on Innocent People Through GoFundMe

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When tragedy strikes, GoFundMe is the place to go to raise money. Last year, $10 million was raised for the victims of Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting. 

There are hundreds of worthy causes on the site, but sometimes GoFundMe is used by criminals to turn it into "Go Fraud Me.”  

Reid Herjo used GoFundMe to make this sympathetic claim about his 13-week-old puppy, Atlas: “Myself, Atlas and a friend were in a severe hit and run accident when someone ran a stop sign. ... Both his back legs are broke.” 

Six hundred, ninety-three people were so moved, they sent in  $14,065. But it turns out there was no car accident. Police say the dog's legs were broken when Herjo kicked him.

“Our investigation determined that this subject had actually abused this animal and caused injuries to this animal that he was now trying to raise money for in a misleading way,” Lt. Arthur Waterman of the Medford, NJ Township Police told Inside Edition. 

As he left court, Inside Edition Chief Investigative Correspondent Lisa Guerrero asked Herjo, “Did you intentionally injure your dog so you could raise money from a GoFundMe site?” 

“You raised over $14,000 on the go fund me site. What did you do with the money?” she continued. 

Herjo did not respond to her questions. He pleaded guilty to animal cruelty.

Then there is the case of 38-year-old Jeremiah Smith, an avid dart player who told his friends he had cancer and only months to live. 

“It broke my heart, I cried many times when I’d seen him,” his friend Darlene Asher told Inside Edition. “You couldn't help but donate, even if I couldn't afford it, I was donating,”

Many good people were so touched, they donated to Smith's GoFundMe page. His wife even believed him.

Turns out Smith was never sick. He spent $23,000 in GoFundMe donations paying off debts, and buying video games and marijuana, police said. He’s pleaded guilty to theft.

"To this day I’m still angry,” his friend, Tim Maguire, told Inside Edition. 

“I hope they think twice and will see that karma will get them eventually," Darlene added. 

GoFundMe says that misuse is very rare but if it does happen, they will refund donations, which they offered to do in these two cases.

In a statement to Inside Edition, GoFundMe says: "In the case of both Reid Herjo and Jeremiah Jon Smith, the campaigns were removed and the users were banned from GoFundMe. All donors to the Reid Herio campaign were refunded in full and our team will honor any requests for refunds for the campaign set up for Jeremiah Jon Smith.
 
"It’s important to know that misuse is very rare on our platform. We have a dedicated Trust & Safety team working around the clock to ensure that GoFundMe is the safest place to give and get help. Campaigns with misuse make up less than one tenth of one percent of all campaigns. If misuse takes place on GoFundMe, donors are protected and their donations are refunded. Our team works with law enforcement to report issues and assists them in investigations.
 
"What matters most to us is that our users are protected and those who need help get the help they deserve. Our platform is backed by the GoFundMe Guarantee, which means that in the rare case that GoFundMe, law enforcement or a user finds campaigns are misused, donors are fully protected: www.gofundme.com/guarantee."
 

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