If a crowdfunding campaign is part of your charitable plans for #GivingTuesday or later in the holiday season, take care to make sure your act of kindness doesn't have unintended consequences.
More than 1 in 5 consumers (22 percent) have pitched in for at least one such project, which raises money toward a common aim via small contributions from a large number of people, according to a 2016 report from Pew Research Center. Of those contributors, 68 percent have given to a campaign to help a person in need.
But, as with other kinds of giving, it's smart to scrutinize the cause before you pull out your wallet.
Earlier this month, prosecutors charged a New Jersey couple and a homeless man with second-degree theft by deception, alleging they worked together to perpetuate a scam that raised more than $400,000 on GoFundMe. Last year, the couple — Mark D'Amico and Kate McClure — created a "Pay It Forward" campaign to benefit Johnny Bobbitt Jr., claiming Bobbitt had given McClure his last $20 to help her get home after her car ran out of gas.
"The entire campaign was predicated on a lie," Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina told reporters at a news conference, according to NBC.
GoFundMe told CNBC that donors to that "Pay It Forward" campaign will receive a full refund under the site's refund policy. Spokesman Bobby Whithorne said such misuse is rare — accounting for less than one-tenth of 1 percent of all campaigns — but that "one fraudulent campaign is one too many."
"We have a zero tolerance policy for fraudulent behavior," Whithorne said. "If fraud occurs, donors get refunded and we work with law enforcement officials to recover the money."