How can I tell if a crowdsourcing campaign is a scam?

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Crowdsourcing can be an effective way to raise funds for a variety of causes, but it's also a great opportunity for scam artists to take advantage of your goodwill. Before you donate to a crowdsourcing campaign, help protect yourself from being scammed by following these tips.

Check the campaign creator's credibility. If you don't personally know the campaign creator, it might be worth your time to review his or her social media profiles. This should be easy to do, since most crowdsourcing platforms link social media accounts to campaigns. When you visit a profile, look for red flags. Does the profile seem new? Does the campaign creator have friends or followers listed on the profile? Does the campaign creator have just one social media account? Does the profile seem active or old/unused? Answering "yes" to any of these questions should cause you to question the legitimacy of a crowdsourcing campaign.

Research the crowdsourcing platform. Many different crowdsourcing platforms exist, from the well established to the startups with no track record. Review a platform's terms and policies before you donate to one of its crowdsourcing campaigns. Find out how long it's been in business and whether it evaluates or checks out campaign creators. Determine whether the platform will refund money or take responsibility for a crowdsourcing campaign scam. Remember to look for the secure lock symbol and the letters https: in the address bar of your Internet browser — this indicates that you're navigating to a legitimate web address.

Consider the timing of the campaign. Be wary of campaigns that are created after national disasters. It's unfortunate, but scam artists often exploit tragedies to appeal to your sense of generosity. In the case of disaster relief, bear in mind that it's probably safer to donate money to established nonprofit organizations with proven track records than to a crowdsourcing campaign.

If you've been defrauded or suspect fraudulent activity, report your experience to the crowdsourcing platform. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).


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