It happens more than people might think. An officer dies in the line of duty and “memorial funds” pop up on GoFundMe claiming the money will go to the officer’s family. (It does not.)
The exact scenario happened after Stanislaus County Sheriff Deputy Jason Garner and Community Service Officer Raschel Johnson died in a car accident in Modesto over the weekend. According to the sheriff's department, one fake GoFundMe account was opened using the Deputy Garner and CSO Johnson’s photos.
“Exploiting the Garner family and the Johnson family by soliciting fraudulent donations is a despicable criminal act,” Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said of the fake donation page. “If identified, those criminal cowards will be arrested and prosecuted.”
The department said it is currently investigating the fake account.
A similar situation happened to the department last November when Deputy Dennis Wallace was shot and killed by David Machado in Hughson.
So just how do you spot a fake memorial fund for a fallen officer?
For starters, always check department websites and social media accounts for the real donation pages. In this case, the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department posted the official GoFundMe account for the Johnson family. It also posted an update for when and where to find the memorial fund for Deputy Garner.
In other situations, if it’s difficult to verify whether an account is official or not, there are a few national non-profit organizations that you can donate to.
When it comes to spotting fake GoFundMe accounts, the process can be a little trickier, so it's best to only donate to donations you know are legitimate.
In Februrary, ABC10 reached out to GoFundMe about fraudulent accounts. Bobby Whithorne, a spokesperson for the company, said less than one-tenth of one percent of all accounts are fraudulent. In those cases, GoFundMe issues refunds to anybody who donated to the campaign.
"We want to ensure GoFundMe donors’ intentions are honored and the recipient gets the funds raised on their behalf," Whithorne said.
List of non-profits:
- California Peace Officers’ Memorial Foundation
- National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund
- Officer Down Memorial Page
- Fraternal Order of Police
- Concerns of Police Survivors