TRENTON, N.J. – Internet scam artists who prey on the generosity of people who open their wallets to help others in immediate need will literally pay for their crime in more ways than one under legislation introduced by Assemblyman Ron Dancer.
Dancer’s bill (A4863) increases the penalties for crowdfunding theft, including mandatory fines, jail time, and restitution. It’s in response to a Burlington County couple who set up a GoFundMe page for a homeless veteran who used his last $20 to buy gas for the woman who was stranded on I-95. Or so goes the story. Turns out it was all a lie. But before they were caught, they collected more than $400,000 from people around the world who were moved by the story.
“Scams like this undermine the foundation of charitable giving,” said Dancer (R-Ocean). “New Jerseyans, like many, are a giving people. They don’t hesitate to donate when they see someone in need, but when they are deceived it makes them reluctant to give in the future. The ones who suffer are the folks who have a real need.”
Under Dancer’s bill, penalties are increased a degree if the crime uses crowdfunding as a means of perpetuating a theft. It also calls for a fine of up to $500 for each crowdfunded contribution the person collected. The monies will be deposited into a fund to provide housing assistance to people who are homeless or in imminent danger of losing their housing.
“Taking advantage of someone’s good nature is appalling,” concluded Dancer. “A slap on the wrist is not adequate. Let’s make certain the punishment fits the crime.”