GoFundMe suspends convoy donations, with some reporting receiving refunds

Some Freedom Convoy 2022 donors have started receiving unsolicited refunds from GoFundMe

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With the millions of dollars Fundraising for the Freedom Convoy now in suspended animation, some donors are reporting receiving refunds from GoFundMe.

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On Wednesday night, GoFundMe announced that it was placing the fundraiser — which has raised more than $10 million in just a few weeks — under review.

A statement released by GoFundMe implies its stance on the convoy has evolved as truckers and their supporters began to converge on Ottawa on January 29.

“We strictly prohibit user content that reflects or encourages behavior that supports violence – in this case, the organizer met our requirements and the fundraiser did not violate our Terms of Service at the time of creation,” the statement said.

GoFundMe said it has stayed in close contact with organizers and local law enforcement.

“As part of our information gathering process, we have also requested more information from the organizer regarding the use of the funds to ensure that the fundraising continues to comply with our Terms of Use,” says the press release.

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“When we do not receive the required information, we may suspend donations, as we did in this case.”

The statement makes no mention of donor reimbursement, and requests for clarification to GoFundMe went unanswered.

On Thursday, Ottawa police released a statement confirming they had met with GoFundMe officials.

“GoFundMe has suspended fundraising for ongoing protests and is currently conducting a review to verify whether or not the campaign is in compliance with their terms of service and applicable laws and regulations,” it says, adding that the police supports the decision to stop fundraising.

That was hardly comforting for convoy donor Brad Maier, who was perplexed to find an email from GoFundMe on Wednesday afternoon informing him – without explanation – that his donation was being refunded.

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“The email looks legit, I just want to wait and see if it actually gets refunded to my credit card,” he told the National Post.

“Then I’ll know if it’s legit.”

Screenshot of Brad Maier's Facebook post about his returned Freedom Convoy donation
Screenshot of Brad Maier’s Facebook post about his returned Freedom Convoy donation Facebook

Maier’s post on the AB Coutts convoy Facebook page Wednesday sparked an immediate reaction, garnering hundreds of likes and shares.

Others on social media have also reported unexplained refunds.

Maier’s refund email looks legit – it was sent from a gofundme.com email address, referenced the exact dollar amount he donated, and lacked the usual “click” link. here to request a refund” common in online phishing scams.

Earlier this week, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson called on GoFundMe to disassociate itself from the convoy and its fundraising efforts, adding that the city was considering legal action to recover police costs from the protest. of nearly a week that has jammed traffic and subjected downtown residents to a round-the-clock cacophony of air horns and large idling trucks.

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Officials previously put that cost at nearly $800,000 a day, which includes calling in reinforcements from police departments as far afield as Toronto and Peel Region.

Requests for comment from convoy organizer Tamara Lich were not returned, but she told a Thursday afternoon news conference that convoy accountants and lawyers were cooperating with GoFundMe to address their concerns. .

Tamara Lich, organizer of a protest convoy of truckers and supporters demanding an end to COVID-19 vaccination mandates, makes a statement during a press conference in Ottawa, Thursday, February 3, 2022.
Tamara Lich, organizer of a protest convoy of truckers and supporters demanding an end to COVID-19 vaccination mandates, makes a statement during a press conference in Ottawa, Thursday, February 3, 2022. Photo by Adrian Wyld /Canadian Press

“This morning our lawyers sent GoFundMe all the details they requested,” she said.

“I am confident that GoFundMe now has all the information necessary to immediately lift the suspension they placed on our campaign.”

The organization’s priority, she explained, is to get the money released and into the hands of protesters, who say they use it to fuel the trucks and fuel the convoy.

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Keith Wilson of the Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms said at the press conference that organizers incorporated the convoy as a nonprofit earlier this week, and money released by GoFundMe will be kept in an account. dedicated bank managed by the organization.

Wilson said it would be up to the convoy’s legal team to determine how best to distribute the money, but offered no further details.

This isn’t the first time that convoy fundraising has fallen under GoFundMe’s control.

As funds raised exceeded several million dollars, a temporary hold was placed by GoFundMe requesting a detailed disbursement plan from organizers, but donations were still being accepted.

GoFundMe paid $1 million to organizers last week after receiving a distribution plan.

• E-mail: [email protected] | Twitter: @bryanpassifiume

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