Call for fundraising pages to be regulated amid fraud concerns

Demand for oversight of sites such as JustGiving follows doubts over pages launched after Westminster attack

It has become a familiar moment in the aftermath of any catastrophe – the appearance of a slew of online fundraising pages designed to funnel donations for the traumatised, injured and bereaved.

But after doubts were raised over some JustGiving pages launched in the aftermath of the Westminster attack, government ministers have been urged to impose regulation – or face a growing risk of unscrupulous fraudsters taking advantage of tragedy.

David Clarke, the former director of the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, said fundraising sites must do more to protect users. Clarke said: “Fraudsters are always looking for new ways to steal and launder dirty money and we must ensure this vital service for good is not open to abuse by criminals. Government must act quickly and decisively to protect the goodwill of our charitable citizens.”

The call for regulatory oversight comes after JustGiving took the unprecedented step of seizing control of a page that had raised £17,000 ostensibly set up in memory of Westminster victim Aysha Frade after donors noticed that the person who set up the page had the same name as a woman convicted of fraud.

About a dozen pages raising money for the victims’ families remain active on JustGiving, having raised close to £8,000 in total.

One of the pages was removed after concerns reported to JustGiving that it had used plagiarised text and was claiming to raise money for the UK charity HHUGS, which told the Guardian it had no connection to the page.

A JustGiving spokesman said there was “no way the page could be fraudulent” because any money raised would have gone to the charity, rather than the individual who had set up the page. The site has said it would quarantine all money raised for the Westminster victims to ensure it reaches the intended beneficiaries.

In a separate case last week, a 32-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of fraudover a GoFundMe page that raised more than £20,000 following a petition to keep a police dog with its handler in Shropshire.

Concerns were raised when someone purporting to be a freelance journalist named Jacob Windsor set up a fundraising page and then linked a GoFundMe page to the petition set up by Jennie Evans, the daughter of retiring police officer David Evans.

The petition attracted more than 140,000 signatures and was supported by Angie Best, the ex-wife of George Best.

Anti-fraud experts have warned that scammers are increasingly finding it easy to exploit the rise in online giving on fundraising sites, which contribute significantly to the more than £2.4bn donated online annually in the UK.

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