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How to spot and avoid crowdfunding scams

(TECH NEWS) Crowdfunding has become ripe for scams, don’t be a sucker — here’s how to spot ’em.

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When it comes to your personal life, you don’t want to be on the receiving end of a crowdfunding campaign because if you’re turning to GoFundMe or YouCaring, it means your house has burned down, you have cancer or your dog has died.

We regularly see these campaigns pop up in our social feeds and for the most part, we believe them because they’re our friends, they’re in need and we trust them so, of course, we pitch in.

However, some people use crowdfunding to fleece you. By now, you’ve probably heard of the couple from New Jersey who teamed up with a homeless man to raise over $400,000. The campaign was a scam, the cash was split and now these crooks are facing some serious consequences in court. Ugh.

We shouldn’t need to write this article, but some people suck and they’re out there duping us. Here’s how to spot them.

This should be obvious, but do not give money to people you do not know or do not at least tangentially know. It never hurts to scroll through the donor list to see if you recognize any of your friends or acquaintances there. If you do and have questions, reach out to them before you reach deep into your wallet.

What about victims of natural disasters? Offer your money to emergency funds run by non-profit organizations. Anyone can create a crowdfunding campaign, but in times of crisis many platforms create verified campaigns.

If the objective of the campaign is unclear, do not donate. We’ve all come across campaigns that are strangely worded or lack enough specifics to piece together a plausible story. If it feels like a Nigerian Prince is the campaign administrator, close the tab.

If a campaign’s photo looks fishy, do a reverse image search on Google to help validate that fishy feeling. If the search yields a lot of results for the photo, scammers have stolen it and are using it to tug at your heartstrings.

Most campaigns run for a very short amount of time, typically a couple of weeks and rarely more than a month. While there is generally a final social push to get to an unmet goal, there are rarely open-ended campaigns. Again, if the goal is unclear or out-of-reach, move on.

We’ve all seen campaigns that are truly gut-wrenching – deaths of loved ones, fights with cancer, entire villages wiped out. As with the case of the three jerks from New Jersey, if it feels too good to be true, it probably is. While some sites may be able to reimburse your donation, others won’t and nothing feels worse than falling for a scam AND losing your money.

And so, dear friends, this is why we at The American Genius almost never, ever write about crowdfunded projects. We care about you and we want you to use your money to help your real friends, fund YOUR next project or pay off your student loans.

AprilJo Murphy is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a PhD in English and Creative Writing from the University of North Texas. She is a writer, editor, and sometimes teacher based in Austin, TX who enjoys getting outdoors with her handsome dog, Roan.

Business Finance

COVID-19: Governors fail renters, a 90-day rent freeze is the only option now

Independent contractors whose only sin is renting instead of owning, are facing evictions even as Governors put tiny bandaids on the situation. A 90-day freeze is the nation’s only option to avoid mass migrations or spikes in homelessness.

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2020, it seems, is the year of rebranding—even when it comes to our impromptu recession brought on by a variety of factors (but largely thanks to COVID-19). Despite the negative connotations of widespread economic disaster, some people, such as St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard, are regarding this instance as “an investment in U.S. public health.”

Should we all be so optimistic? Bullard seems to think so.

To be fair, James Bullard’s “optimism” also accounts for taking a “$2.5 trillion hit” to the economy, so it’s not all sunshine and dancing unicorns (this time). However, the long-term outcome of handling this crisis correctly—a process which involves bailing out small businesses, matching wages, and contributing to rebuilding and supporting our healthcare infrastructure—will be, according to Bullard, positive.

Bullard’s optimism does come with an important message: As with pretty much anything, the simpler we can keep solutions to this problem, the better the outcome will be. We’re not off to a great start; between states’ varying responses to COVID-19 procedures and mixed congressional support for a stimulus package, the process of dealing with economic fallout has become more complicated than some—Bullard included—would consider “ideal”.

Unfortunately, there isn’t really an “ideal” outcome here that is also practical without requiring a heretofore unseen level of cooperation and cohesion between political parties and state-based cultures. In the event that we can actually pull together and actively invest, as Bullard suggests, in our infrastructure, the implications for our economy will ultimately be positive—even if only in a pyrrhic victory kind of way.

In unprecedented times of crisis—you know, like right now—a little bit of optimism doesn’t hurt. Over the course of the next few months, you’ll hear all sorts of different takes on the situation; some people—those who identify as “realists” but really just enjoy bumming people out—will actively speak out against positive attitudes, while others will avoid “getting their hopes up” because they don’t want to be disappointed.

But, if Bullard’s optimism is to be believed—and we’re choosing to think it is—you have full permission to let yourself hope, at least for now.

Remember, there are a couple of things you can do to bolster your immune system without medicine during this time. One of them involves keeping a positive outlook, and the other one is eating plenty of garlic; we’ve found that one accompanies the other.

This story was first published in our Real Estate section.

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Business Finance

Gov. Cuomo first to issue 90-day moratorium on commercial, residential evictions

(NEWS) NY Governor, Andrew Cuomo is the first state leader to put a halt to all commercial and residential payments in an effort to stem the COVID-19 crisis.

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New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo is the first state governor to put a moratorium on residential and commercial evictions in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, specifically hitting pause for 90 days in his state. This is part of a $10B relief package that includes utility payments missed during this outbreak as the state (and all states) are strained by the global pandemic.

This will not only help renters to find stable footing as so many have lost their jobs overnight, but commercial renters (like restaurants) that are worried about being evicted during a time that they were shut down by the government.

Reactions have mostly been positive, but many are still pushing for a freeze on rent, essentially rent forgiveness during this period since mortgage holders can roll their 90 days on to the end of their loan term, but renters cannot.

For many landlords, rent is their exclusive income and they have very few units, but they too will be under a mortgage freeze on their buildings under this Order, providing some relief. Not to mention Tax Day just moved from April 15 to July 15.

Meanwhile, a state group, Housing Justice for All, is calling for the rehousing of every homeless individual using emergency rent assistance and in vacant homes. They cite the risk of viral spread through the homeless shelter system, as well as viral possibilities among homeless people living on the streets.

There is no known answer in this time of being tested, but a freeze on rents and mortgages in New York will likely lead to other governors taking the same route, and renters might be able to breathe a little better soon, especially those who have lost their jobs and independent contractors whose business immediately died on the vine.

We’ll be watching for other states’ reactions to rents and mortgage payments.

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Business Finance

COVID-19: Self employed Texans get some relief benefits

(BUSINESS FINANCE) Self employed? Worried about the corona virus hurting your business? Texas says you’re STILL eligible for cash-related COVID-19 coverage!

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When I heard ‘It’s hard being your own boss’, I thought people meant employee reviews were harder to do since you have to carry both parts of a tough conversation in your home office.

Now, watching as self-employed artists, caterers, events specialists and more are struggling in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the image is less ‘Ha!’ and more ‘AH!’.

It’s bad out there, y’all. And my heart goes out virtually, as per CDC guidelines. But in every viral cloud, there’s a colloidal silver lining. In the great state of Texas, that lining is: You’re probably eligible for disaster-based unemployment.

Yes, really!

Straight from the Texas Workforce Commission’s mouth: If your employment has been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19), apply for benefits either online at any time using Unemployment Benefits Services or by calling TWC’s Tele-Center at 800-939-6631 from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Central Time Monday through Friday.

Now how does that cover the self-employed? Simple…kinda.

You’ll need to apply through the Disaster Unemployment Assistance and then take the extra steps of providing different proof than your 9-5 friends.

Firstly, you have to prove you’re self employed. If you’ve been paying you under the table, this is where the poop hits the fan, I’m afraid. The government will need things like (any given one of these): Insurance bills, business license, a recent ad, an invoice, or sales records.

Were you just about to start your own business when all this went down? Fortunately you’re covered too, so long as you have proof of prospective self-employment, say: The deed to a building you just bought, loan documents, ‘Grand Opening’ announcements, and so forth.

For the full list of documents that suffice, visit the TWC site directly and check what proof your pudding needs.

This situation is a Corona-cluster-cussword, but there’s help out there.

Reach out. Grab it. And then wash your hands.

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