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Criminal cash cons hit JustGiving sites

This news post is almost 7 years old

Site administrators have had to pull more than 100 pages because of suspected criminality

Criminals are using fundraising site JustGiving to launder cash and con the public, it has emerged.

It has had to close down almost 100 of its appeal pages over the past 18 months after they were found to be fraudulent.

The upsurge in criminal activity may be linked to the public’s willingness to donate following tragedies, such as the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Jonathan Waddingham, senior product manager at JustGiving, said: "The nature of crowdfunding has changed this year. We think this is because of major events like the Manchester bombing or the fire at Grenfell Tower.

"People are more willing to give to individuals they don't know, which has meant the risk has changed."

He said the site has had to work harder to search and destroy fraudulent appeals and prevent criminals from using the donation system to launder illegal earnings.

However, money laundering "can be easy to spot", he added: "The patterns of donation are different from those of legitimate users. One of the things we look out for is where a page gets a lot of donations from the same people or where a card is used repeatedly or has been rejected before," he said.

When discovered, no payments were processed, he said.

Ed Gairdner of The Good Exchange, an online matching platform for funders and fundraisers, said that the crimibnal incursions mean that the method and technology behind fundraising online needs to evolve.

He said: “JustGiving has identified that there has been a shift in the way the public donates and consequently acted to close down a number of fraudulent appeal pages, but the onus is on us, as the fundraising platforms, to ensure there are enough safeguards in place to prevent this type of criminal activity in the first place.

"In reality, someone who pretends to be a fundraiser but is in fact collecting money for other reasons, is no new thing and, consequently, greater protection against it should be a given.

“In fact, online fundraising platforms can utilise many more safeguarding provisions than traditional street fundraising. For example, they can prevent fundraising projects from paying money into an individual’s bank account and make it obligatory to undergo a vetting process before an application is accepted to appear on a fundraising platform.

"These types of defences need not be exhaustive, with reams of restrictions and qualifications, but requiring just a small amount of information on a project before fundraising begins can be enough to flag any potentially illegitimate claims."