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Fake Crime Stories On Website Generate GoFundMe Donations

A tragic story appeared this month on NewsBreak, a website that aggregates local news from across the country. The writer reported on a hit-and-run accident that had left two people dead: Herman Cruz and his 4-year-old daughter, Amelia. Herman had been driving Amelia to her cancer treatments in Richmond, Va., when they were killed, the author said. A series of stories sent readers to a GoFundMe page created to raise money to pay for their funeral services. “All donations will help and be appreciated,” said the GoFundMe organizer. The campaign raised more than $1,500, reports NBC News.


None of it was real. The account holder who used the name “Blast News 365” and identified himself as “Jamel” in an author bio appears to have fabricated the story. Virginia police and a prosecutor had no record of the victims, no reports of the hit-and-run. The author appears to have concocted other news stories over the last several weeks. In each case, the articles included links to GoFundMe pages where readers — moved by details of grim crimes and terrible accidents — could open up their virtual pocketbooks. Three of the campaigns raised a total of nearly $2,700.  On Tuesday, after NBC asked NewsBreak about the articles in question, all of Blast News 365’s stories on the platform appeared to have been taken down. When reached for comment, a GoFundMe spokesperson said the service has “zero tolerance for the misuse of our platform,” adding, "This account has been banned from using the platform for any future fundraising and their fundraisers have been removed. Any donors who submit a claim will be refunded." The articles published by Blast News 365 would raise eyebrows among anyone who regularly reads professionally produced news content. They were riddled with typos, grammatical errors, off-kilter formatting and other red flags. 


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