GoFundMe campaigns for slain officers’ families pop up; 1 is suspended
A verified campaign must include who the organizer is, where he or she is from and their relationship to the parties who would benefit from the funds.
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Within just a day after two Honolulu police officers were shot and killed while responding to a call for help in the Diamond Head area, a GoFundMe campaign emerged, seeking funds to help Tiffany Enriquez and Kaulike Kalama.
The link circulated on Facebook, and users quickly called it out as a scam, saying the families did not know the organizer. GoFundMe has since suspended the campaign.
GoFundMe spokeswoman Jenny Perillo said if the organizer does not provide more information, donors will be refunded.
“When there’s an unspeakable tragedy, people have a deep urge to help and provide comfort to those impacted — it’s not uncommon for someone to create a GoFundMe to help another individual after a news report,” said Perillo in an email. “We are monitoring all campaigns set up to support those impacted by this tragedy.”
Stephen Levins, executive director of the state Office of Consumer Protection, offered advice on what to look out for on the popular crowdfunding platform.
“One of the things you want to determine is whether the recipient of the campaign is aware of the campaign and has authorized the campaign,” said Levins. “People may have the best intentions. I’m not suggesting everyone who sets these up is a fraudster, but there are people who will take advantage of the situation.”
Second, he said the purpose of the campaign should be clear, including specifics on how the funds will be used and who will withdraw them.
Donations to GoFundMe campaigns are not always tax-deductible, he added, and if anyone is launching one, it is best to have permission from the beneficiary or their family first.
More traditional routes include donations to a specific organization or institution that has set up a fund, such as the Hawaii Law Enforcement Federal Credit Union.
On Tuesday morning, Perillo said, there were at least two verified campaigns.
The “Tiffany Enriquez Ohana Fundraiser” is organized by relative Renee Garza and Theresa Baladad Bilon, who described herself as a sister-in-law, to help pay for funeral and travel expenses.
As of Tuesday evening the campaign had surpassed its original $10,000 goal and raised $12,000 of its $15,000 goal.
Another GoFundMe campaign for the officers, created by Andy “Alo” Ahuna-Alofaituli, a correctional officer from Hilo, also has been reviewed, said Perillo.
Ahuna-Alofaituli said he is not related to either family, but part of the law enforcement ohana, “which considers us all to be brothers and sisters in blue.” In a video posted to Facebook, he said he launched the campaign because he cares, and plans to organize recycling runs to help raise funds.
“We are working with the campaign organizer, and we guarantee the money will go to the families of the fallen officers,” said Perillo. “Ahuna-Alofaituli does not have access to the funds.”
A verified campaign must include who the organizer is, where he or she is from and their relationship to the parties who would benefit from the funds. There also must be information on how the funds will be spent.
On Tuesday afternoon a GoFundMe campaign for Kalama was launched by Keoni Chan of Honolulu, who said he had permission from Kalama’s wife.
Perillo said the GoFundMe Guarantee covers all campaigns, which means refunds will be given if law enforcement or the company finds that funds have been misused.
Donors who want to know more about a campaign can contact the organizer directly on the page, she said. Campaigns also can be flagged by clicking the “Report fundraiser” link at the bottom.
Although the crowdfunding platform is free, there is a 2.9% transaction fee plus 30 cents per donation for credit card processing and the transfer of funds.
Separately, the Hula Bowl announced Tuesday that it will donate $5 from every ticket sale to the families of the slain officers. The college football All-Star Game is at 5:30 p.m. Sunday at Aloha Stadium. For more information, contact Hula Bowl sports information director Steven Falatea at stevenDfalatea@gmail.com.