Scammers are posing as grieving relatives of coronavirus victims to set up fake fundraising campaigns.
Heartbroken families have had their social media profiles cloned by tricksters who then ask for donations to bogus charity appeals.
The mother of one of Britain’s youngest coronavirus victims is among those to have been targeted both with fake Facebook profiles and fundraising pages mimicking the tragic news.
One such appeal called COVID-19 Funeral, which was asking for £5,000 target for the funeral of an apparent 23-year-old victim called Chelsea McDonnell.
The page, which had received no donations, read – To all the people out there that thinks it’s just a virus please think again. Speaking from personal experience this so-called virus has taken the life of my 23-year-old daughter.
But a quick search revealed it to be the same text used by Mrs. Middleton when she tragically announced Chloe’s death on Facebook, with the exception of the age.
And Diane Middleton, whose daughter Chloe, 21, succumbed to the deadly bug last month, has had to warn people to be vigilant after spotting a fake Facebook using her name.
Mrs. Middleton, from High Wycombe, Bucks, wrote – My Facebook account has been cloned.
Someone is pretending to be me and is asking for money. Do not give a penny and please spread the word! and please report the account to Facebook.
Friends told of their shock at the scam – which Facebook was quick to close down.
Con artists also set up a fake fundraising page after the tragic death of Lindsay Marshall, 44.
Mrs. Marshall, from Rochdale, Greater Manchester, died in intensive care at Royal Oldham hospital on April 4.
Her sister, Karen Marshall, had her Facebook account cloned with tricksters sending out links to a bogus appeal.
Karen, 42, said she was sickened her sister’s death was being exploited.
She posted screenshots of the fake profile on Facebook and warned friends – If anyone gets a friend request off me with this link to Lindsay Marshall’s fund it’s not me and it’s not her fund.
I can’t believe people are trying to make money out of this.
Karen, who had launched her own genuine charity campaign, told local news website Lancs Live – It just sickens me to know that someone would use the loss of Lindsay to try to make them money, especially when the money we were raising was going to such a good cause.
Fundrazr, the platform on which the bogus fundraising appeal was made, said it had removed the page.
A spokesman admitted: At this time, many scammers are trying to take advantage of community goodwill and line their own pockets. By working together, we can stop them.
Popular Crowdfunding platform GoFundMe is also working to control scam appeals.
Addressing concerns around the Chelsea McDonnell appeal, a spokesman for GoFundMe said – We are currently vetting this campaign, which has raised £0.00 and has never been shared publicly.
And they added – It’s important to note we remain in control of funds in all campaigns until we are happy they are going to the right place.
If the campaign organizer fails to answer our questions here, it will be removed.
It’s important to note that donors are always 100% protected on GoFundMe.
We are the only fundraising platform with a guarantee to donors that their money goes to the right place or it will be refunded.