An angry mum has shamed an online scammer who used an image of her disabled son as part of a charity appeal to raise £1,000.
Charlene Beswick, from Biddulph, Staffordshire, when she was alerted to an online fund-raising campaign on GoFundMe by a man going by the name ‘Josh Mason’ featuring a photo of her little boy, Harry.
Harry was born with a rare cranio-facial condition – Goldenhar syndrome – which means his left eye, eye socket, ear and nostril never developed.
His mum has set up a charity and written a book about the challenges facing one of her sons after giving birth to twins Oliver and Harry in 2005.
The description of the campaign read: “I am raising money for my son called Adam who has a rare condition and needs surgery, any little helps.”
Charlene said: “One of my social media followers noticed it and got in touch with me. They are brilliant like that and always look out for me and Harry.
“As soon as I saw it I got so angry – it made my blood boil. It is just despicable and, sad to say, I’m not surprised it has happened.
“Sadly this isn’t the first time Harry’s image has been used. Usually it’s used as some kind of clickbait, but this is the first time someone has used his image to try to make money.
“Using someone’s image in this way isn’t policed, but I think more needs to be done so people can’t get away with it so easily.”
Charlene managed to get the appeal deleted before a penny was raised.
She added: “I sent a tweet to GoFundMe as soon as I saw this campaign. I don’t know if it was them, or the scammer, but thankfully it is now removed.
“I saw 111 other campaigns from the same person, and some had raised thousands. I saw $3,000 on one of them, so he must be doing it abroad too.
“It spoils it for everyone. There are lots of genuine campaigns out there, people shouldn’t have to feel suspicious every time they donate.
“I think there needs to be something else in place to further verify campaigns and protect their credibility.
“I don’t know whether campaigns could possibly be verified in a similar style to how you’d verify your passport, or some other similar way, but there does need to be more in place to protect people against scams like this.”
Her charity – More Than A Face – aims to educate and inform young people about facial disfigurement to promote acceptance.
“I don’t want people feeling sorry for Harry,” continued Charlene.
“He’s a happy 15-year-old boy who is always bouncing around, and we don’t need or want pity. This is one of the reasons I set up More Than A Face.
“This person has just taken Harry at face value. They have seen his image and taken it and used it for their own gain, not knowing anything about who he is or what he’s like.”
GoFundMe has banned the trickster.
A GoFundMe spokesman said: “This campaign did not raise any money. We removed this campaign shortly after Charlene’s tweet, and banned the user.
“We are proud to be the only fundraising platform backed by a guarantee, which means that all donors, campaign organisers and beneficiaries are protected by a refund policy in the very rare event their funds don’t get to the right place.
“All GoFundMe campaigns face some form of vetting before withdrawal and misuse accounts for only one tenth of one per cent of campaigns.”