GoFundMe responded to our request for more information. In an e-mail Katherine Cichy a member of the GoFundMe team says "GoFundMe has a team dedicated to monitoring campaigns created for those impacted by fires in California. We've created a centralized location for verified campaigns created for those impacted by the fires in California. This page is updated on a regular basis." This page is https://www.gofundme.com/cause/californiafires
The e-mail also states, "Additionally, we deploy proprietary technical tools and have multiple processes in place to verify the identity of campaign organizers and the beneficiary of the campaign. Before money is transferred, an individual’s information, including their banking information, must be verified by our payment processor."
If you are ever unsure of a GoFundMe page, Katherine says to reach out to the team or report a campaign. That way GoFundMe can investigate if the page is a scam or not.
Today is giving Tuesday and if you are looking to donate money to Camp Fire victims this year make sure it's with a reputable source.
In the newsroom we've gotten a few calls from viewers telling us about fake GoFundMe accounts. One women i spoke to Carolina Aiken knows about the Camp Fire damage first hand.
She shared a video with me of her son's home in Paradise, California or what's left of it. When her son lost everything she turned to GoFundMe to see how her son could benefit from money being raised.
Carolina Aitken says "I looked into the GoFundMe pages. I bet there was like nine of them. I wrote an e-mail to them asking them how they are going to distribute the money, how does a person sign up to get the funds. not one of them ever answered me back."
I asked Carolina if she still had the links to the accounts she contacted. She looked and told me those pages were gone and no longer existed.
Carolina says "So when they are saying they are collecting the money for the people of the fire victims whatever... are they really??"
From looking at their website it looks like GoFundMe is checking pages to make sure they are all legit, but some do fall through the cracks. I sent a media request into GoFundMe to ask them more about the fake account scare.
Their automatic response says we're going to try out best to respond back to you within the next two hours. Due to the high volume of press inquires that we receive, we may not respond to everyone. By the time this story had to air, we have not heard back from them.
Carolina says "Well it actually makes me really upset. There are so many people out there that do need the help and when they do this they are taking funds away from them."
I spoke to Dee Anne Everson today from United Way. She is the CEO. She told me the best way to help victims of a disaster like this one is win gift cards to grocery stores or gas stations. She said donating to United Way in Northern California or the North Valley Community Foundation are other great options. If you are ever unsure if you are donating to a reputable source do your research before you donate.