New York State In-depth

BBB warns of scam related to Buffalo Bills | top story

BUFFALO — Millions of people watched Jan. 2 as Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Millions of dollars have also gone towards the children’s toy drive Hamlin supports in his hometown of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, as fans across the country turn to support the 24-year-old, who has been hospitalized since being transferred from the field. In the days since the incident, more than $7 million in donations have been made to the toy drive.

Of course, where there is a lot of money, there are scammers who want to make money. Upstate New York and Western Pennsylvania’s Better Business Bureaus are warning fans to be on the lookout for fake or fraudulent crowdfunding campaigns.

“Everyone feels terrible about what happened to this young man and just wants to help in any way they can,” said Warren Clark, CEO of BBB of Upstate New York. “It’s understandable and commendable that people want to donate money to his cause, but we have to be vigilant. We have to take the time to make sure the money goes to the right place.”

This fundraiser has been verified on behalf of the Hamlin family; It was created in 2020 by Damar Hamlin to benefit the Chasing M’s Foundation.

GoFundMe, a BBB-accredited company, monitors donation requests. Accordingly, any fundraiser not authorized by the recipient of the funds will be removed.

“When suspicious activity is reported — whether it’s through our tools, our community, or simply because a fundraiser is gaining momentum — our team will immediately investigate to verify its legitimacy,” said a GoFundMe spokesperson. “We have zero tolerance for abuse of our platform.”

The BBB offers these tips for those looking to donate:

n Do not assume that images represent an official connection to the identified individual or family. Unfortunately, some crowdfunding posts may use images of victims without their families’ permission. As a result, you cannot assume that the poster has any official connection. Again, each site has different rules as to what they allow. As a donor, you need to tread carefully, especially after a tragedy or disaster.

n Not all crowdfunding sites work the same way. Some crowdfunding platforms vet posts and projects that appear on their sites better than others. Read the website’s description of their procedures. When they make arrangements, they generally announce that fact loudly to encourage giving. For example, if an ad purports to raise funds to help a victim and/or their family following a tragedy or disaster, some websites may hold the funds raised and distribute them directly to the identified family or charity. Other sites may rely on individuals soliciting funds to honor their promised support.

n For more information on charitable giving, visit the BBB Wise Giving Alliance website, Give.org.

If you’ve been the victim of a charity scam, help others avoid the same fate by reporting your experience on BBB.org/scamtracker.

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