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As a GoFundMe campaign unravels, here’s how you can protect your money from bogus fundraising – National

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Charges have officially been laid in a case involving a homeless American veteran, a New Jersey couple and a “fictitious and illegal” GoFundMe campaign that compelled donors to contribute over US$400,000, law enforcement has confirmed.

Mark D’Amico, girlfriend Kate McClure and homeless man Johnny Bobbitt gained significant attention after they launched a heart-warming “Pay It Forward” campaign, only for the public to discover that it was staged from day one.


READ MORE:
N.J. couple, homeless man charged over ‘fictitious and illegal’ GoFundMe campaign

Internet users everywhere have since been reminded not to believe everything they read online.

But how exactly can users be sure they’re giving their money to worthy and legitimate causes?

Users should either donate to online campaigns where they know the individuals who are running them directly, or opt for a registered charity instead, said Mark Blumberg, a Toronto-based charity tax lawyer.

“My advice would be to, in the case where you know the people involved personally, then you can use a crowdfunding program. But if you don’t actually know the people and you’re just relying on social media or something from stories that are interesting, then I would say it’s better to give money to a registered charity in Canada that is working on a particular issue that can help with the particular problem,” he told Global News.

WATCH: Police confirm New Jersey couple knew homeless man for ‘about a month’






The story of D’Amico, McClure and Bobbitt went viral in November 2017, the prosecutor stated.

McClure said she ran out of gas in Philadelphia when she encountered Bobbitt, who gave her his final $20 so she could fill her tank.

The couple then started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Bobbitt that drew more than $400,000 in donations.

Bobbit brought a lawsuit against D’Amico and McClure in September, asserting that he wanted an equal cut after he received $75,000 of the earnings.


READ MORE:
N.J. woman raises over $250K for homeless man who gave her his last $20

Prosecutors later looked at 60,000 text messages and found that Bobbitt had never actually given McClure the money for gas. They learned at that time that the whole thing was staged.

Had the three not begun fighting over the money, “there’s a very good chance” they might have gotten away with the scheme, the Burlington County prosecutor said Thursday.

While unfortunate, Blumberg said these fraudulent campaigns are likely more common than we realize.

“Because it’s so easy for anybody to set up a campaign, it’s not hard to imagine that when you have almost no control that some people will take advantage of a situation like that.”

The reason? There really aren’t any rules governing the online crowdfunding space, Blumberg added.


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“There really aren’t any rules that are governing crowdfunding, as opposed to registered charities which have to do filings every year and they can be ordered to by the Canada revenue agency and things like that,” he states.

In fact, Saskatchewan is currently the only Canadian province that has enacted legislation to govern crowdfunding campaigns.

In the United States, the laws around online fundraising vary state by state, but they’re more specifically directed at startups or other innovators raising funds for new product launches or business expansions, according to Entrepreneur Magazine.

In Saskatchewan, new laws were enacted in 2012 by a national body called the Uniform Law Conference, which proposes changes when gaps are identified in existing laws.

WATCH: Text messages show New Jersey couple was in financial difficulty






Under the law, a court hearing can be requested by a trustee, a donor, a person who benefits from a fund, the attorney general or anyone the court considers has a sufficient interest in a fund, Global News previously reported.

However, even this law is focused more specifically on divvying up the payments incurred from the campaign.

GoFundMe uses ” proprietary fraud prevention technical tools” and has numerous processes to verify the identities of campaign organizers, spokesperson Rachel Hollis said in an email.

“We have a community of 50 million users — when they see something they think might not be right, they tell us, and our team looks into it. If a campaign receives a complaint, the funds cannot be withdrawn until the issue is resolved,” she said.


READ MORE:
The viral story of Keaton Jones: Cautionary tale on Internet fame and crowdfunding

People are advised to avoid pages with minimal information, to contact the people who create the campaigns, to perform a reverse-image search on Google to determine whether a campaign has stolen a photo, to check the social media accounts of the campaigners and look for updates from contributors.

As for the New Jersey couple and the homeless veteran, law enforcement announced Thursday that GoFundMe would issue refunds to anyone who donated to the campaign.

–With files from Andrew Russell and the Associated Press. 

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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FOREIGN NEWS

Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

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Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.

In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.

“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.

“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”

“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.

Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”

Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”

“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.

He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”

As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our

country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.

The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”

On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.

Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu
RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA

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Harris accepts VP nomination

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Harris accepts VP nomination

Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”

Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”

“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”

“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.

That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”

Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.

In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.

“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m

The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.

But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.

West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.

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