Fake News Account Asks People for GoFundMe Donations

By: Savvy Dime Staff | Published: Mar 31, 2024

Helping people in need is one of the most generous things you can do. But beware of others who take advantage of that generosity. Asking for funds for victims of a crime that doesn’t exist isn’t just fraud; it’s wrong.

And such is the case with a tragic news story written by an author named Jamel El-Amin. His news is fake, but links to GoFundMe found in his articles have managed to raise $1,500.

Fake Father and Daughter News

Jamel’s tale of tragedy, published under the name “Blast News 356,” first appeared on a news aggregator website NewsBreak. The website aims to provide local news to readers based on location for free.

A black car damaged in a crash

Source: Michael Jin/Unsplash

In the story, a father and daughter duo, Herman and 4-year-old Amelia Cruz, were killed in a traffic accident. Herman was supposedly taking Amelia to her cancer treatment in Richmond, Virginia. In articles written by Blast News 365, the author directed readers to a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the funeral.


Non-Existent Case and Victims

However, the story is entirely fabricated. Virginia’s state and local police, and a commonwealth attorney, did not find any case or victims by that name.

A yellow crime scene tape across a dark background

Source: Kat Wilcox/Pexels

What is concerning is that this is not the only time the author and their so-called news outlet reported bogus incidents with non-existent victims.

A Homeless Hoax

One of the stories Blast News 365 reported on was of a 57-year-old homeless man who was beaten and robbed while stopping three men from mugging a woman at an ATM in Arlington, Virginia.

A homeless man leaning on his pushcart in an empty parking lot

Source: Mart Production/Pexels

The Arlington County Police, however, said they have not investigated any robbery case with those circumstances.

A Sham Shooting

Blast News 365 also reported a shooting of a 77-year-old “neighborhood’s grandma” in her car. An 18-year-old man was said to have been charged.

A hand holding a handgun against a dark background

Source: Karolina Grabowska/Pexels

Once again, the police department in Arlington County stated there have been no cases of fatal shooting with the identified victim. “We do not have reports of any recent incidents matching [the] information in their report, nor has a person associated with this publication reached out to our office for information.”

Public Donations Fraud

In each case, the articles always contain a link to GoFundMe, pleading with the public to donate for victims of these brutal crimes and accidents.

The logo for GoFundMe website

Source: GoFundMe/Wikipedia

NBC News confirmed a total of $2,700 in donations was raised on behalf of these non-existent victims.


A Severe Takedown

After NBC News reached out to NewsBreak about Blast News 265’s fabricated stories, the website took down the articles.

A laptop screen showing error 404

Source: Erik Maclean/Unsplash

A NewsBreak spokesperson stated that the removal was in line with the website’s Terms of Use and Community Standards. Contributors violating those standards, such as publishing false information, risk having their account suspended or terminated. Articles proven to be false will also be removed.


Minimal Oversight and Verification Process

NewsBreak does not verify user-generated news articles, the spokesperson confirmed. This minimal oversight may be why Blast News 365 was able to publish fabricated news.

A magnifying glass over a laptop’s keyboard

Source: Agence Olloweb/Unsplash

However, the spokesperson insisted that the website did have a “robust content moderation system and take action upon identifying violations of our community standards.”


Zero Tolerance for Misuse

Meanwhile, GoFundMe also emphasized the platform service’s zero tolerance for misuse.

A hand holding hundred-dollar bills

Source: Jp Valery/Unsplash

As a result, Blast News 365’s account has been banned from the crowdfunding platform. It can no longer raise any money in the future and any existing fundraisers have been removed. Thankfully, “any donors who submit a claim will be refunded,” they added.


Bogus Journalist Identity

NBC News attempted to reach out to possible email accounts using the name Jamel El-Amin. None of the emails yielded any replies.

A broken smartphone screen showing the words Error 404

Source: Kostiantyn Li/Unsplash

Furthermore, different phone numbers associated with that name were also a bust. They either belonged to other people or were out of service.


Red Flags for Credibility

Even though readers can no longer access the news that Blast News 365 published, NBC News pointed out how those articles should have raised red flags for credibility.

A smartphone screen showing the word Error against a red background

Source: Polina Zimmerman/Pexels

The articles were said to have grammar and spelling errors and discrepancies. For example, the victim’s names were spelled differently in two different paragraphs. There are also no other supporting details from Google searches like obituaries or other relevant news reports.


The Fake From the Real

Jamal El-Amin and his Blast News 365 may be the villains of the story. But if there’s a moral to the story, it’s “don’t believe everything you read.”

Two women sitting on the stairs and reading something from the smartphone

Source: Ketut Subiyanto/Pexels

Identifying the fake from the real has become a necessary practice, especially when money is at stake. Minimize the risk of fraud by taking easy steps to verify facts.