Who wants and needs your money on crowdfunding sites

Who wants and needs your money on crowdfunding sites

(WOIO) - claims to be the world's #1 fundraising site for personal causes and life events. Hundreds of thousands of people have raised more than $1 billion since its creation. It's made donating online much easier and has even been used to save lives. But it can also be a gamble.

For Sally and Stephen Schaffer, time together means everything. Stephen, a Marine Corp/Army veteran, was diagnosed with lung cancer back in 2013. At one point, his radiation treatments stopped working. Recently, the couple was given even more devastating news.

"They told us they had found more than 20 cancerous tumors all over his brain," said Sally.

"I have my good days and I have bad days, but I just keep fighting," Stephen said.

Consumed with more financial debt than they can handle, and living on fixed income, the Schaffers say they needed help. The family says they rely on donations.

"He needs the treatment. We'll get the money somehow, and that's how we decided to go with GoFundMe," Sally said.

When it comes to crowdfunding sites, not everyone may be aware of the money trail.

"If you stay local, you have a better chance of making sure that you are giving to the appropriate person," according to Kathy Graham, with the

of Coastal Carolina. "Do your research. Verify a charity is legit through


She also suggests reading the fine print before donating, along with looking for credit card and processing fees. Graham says filter out those who want your money from those who truly need it.

"It's frustrating, very frustrating. I don't know how some who scam can sleep at night," Sally said.

Many of the crowdfunding sites have payment processors and systems in place to catch and deter fraudulent activity. 

GoFundMe says because crowdfunding leaves such a robust paper trail of the account holder's activity, fraud is very rare on their site.

The Schaffers cause was legitimate. Stephen died shortly after this interview.

If you have any concerns about donating to other causes, here are some links on protecting yourself from scammers:

-GoFundMe Safety & Security

Copyright 2015 WOIO. All rights reserved.