Web of lies: fundraising campaign for six-year-old with cerebral palsy is hijacked by online fraudsters

Bournemouth Echo: James and Morwenna Gower who have discovered several websites that are using the details and images from their appeal to raise money for life changing surgery for their son Elliot. James and Morwenna Gower who have discovered several websites that are using the details and images from their appeal to raise money for life changing surgery for their son Elliot.

A FUNDRAISING campaign for a six-year-old boy to have a life-changing operation has been hijacked by online fraudsters.

James and Morwenna Gower set up Operation Elliot to appeal for £66,300 so their son, who has cerebral palsy and severe haemophilia, could have a selective dorsal rhizotomy at Great Ormond Street Hospital next year.

However, the couple were shocked to discover eight fake web appeal pages using Elliot’s story and pictures – one of which had apparently attracted around $495 in donations.

Mr Gower, from Tuckton, said: “We first discovered it about three weeks ago when a friend asked if we knew anyone in America who was fundraising for Elliot.

“We did a bit of searching on Google and found several websites with details taken from our old fundraising page, before we switched to Just Giving.

“We were in a bit of a panic at first, we were worried that we had been hacked.

“Some presumably fake names crop up again and again, and the founders of some of the pages seem to donate to themselves.

“It is sad and disturbing that someone is using people’s kind donations to a genuine charity to steal money.”

The couple, who have raised £10,000 in a month, contacted Action Fraud and also the websites hosting the pages, some of which have now been removed.

The host sites included fundly.com, fundmyteam.co.uk, fundraise.com, gogetfunding.com, donationto.com, volunteerforever.com, btplc.com and payitsquare.com.

The pioneering selective dorsal rhizotomy could make it possible for Elliot to walk unaided and enjoy greater independence as he gets older.

Jo Cowan, who successfully raised funds for her daughter Skye to have the procedure earlier this year, branded the fraud “disgraceful”.

“We haven’t discovered anything like this with our appeal but it may be that we just haven’t found it yet,” she said.

“The worst thing is it may put people off donating.

“Skye is doing amazingly well after her operation, but we wouldn’t be in this position if it wasn’t for all the online donations we had.”

Alistair McLean is chief executive of the Fundraising Standards Board – the regulator for charity fundraising in the UK.

He said: “Although any instances of charity fraud are rare, they are deeply concerning.

“Such acts not only deceive supporters and divert much- needed funds from good causes, but carry an even greater cost of damaging public trust and future charitable giving. This has come at a time when genuine charities need the public’s donations more than ever.”

If you have concerns about charity fundraising contact the FRSB on 0333 321 8803 or visit www.givewithconfidence.org.uk.

Comments (10)

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11:00am Wed 1 Jan 14

Bournemouth Ohec says...

I'm so sorry that this child suffers the way he does.

I am puzzled, and this is a genuine question, nothing more;

Great Ormond Street Hospital is part of the NHS. Why do funds have to be raised in order for him to have treatment there?

I would imagine that I am not the only person wondering this.
I'm so sorry that this child suffers the way he does. I am puzzled, and this is a genuine question, nothing more; Great Ormond Street Hospital is part of the NHS. Why do funds have to be raised in order for him to have treatment there? I would imagine that I am not the only person wondering this. Bournemouth Ohec

11:44am Wed 1 Jan 14

jamesgower1976 says...

Hi,
It is a legitimate question, thanks for asking. People are asking often why this is. The completely uncomplicated answer is funding. The NHS is having to implement cuts in their service, as you all know and have read in all of the press. They must make savings across the board normally starting with frontline staff like nurses, middle management etc. Then more expensive surgeries need to be cut and Elliot's surgery is a very expensive one. There are a lot of people in the same boat at the moment. We just don't know as yet if there is any funding available for the SDR surgerys this year.
We are working to raise funds based on a worst case scenario where we get no NHS funding and have to finance it as a private surgery. If by some miracle the operation is funded fully the 2 years of post op physiotherapy is not covered fully by the NHS. To get the most benefit from the surgery Elliot must ungergo a very intensive post op program otherwise the operation may cause detrimental effects for Elliot's mobility. The post op physio alone will cost £30,000.
We are very grateful to the NHS and all its members who have supported and helped us and are trying to make this operation happen. We can't fault them at all. Alas, at this difficult economic time they are being forced to cut services.

Thanks

James Gower
Hi, It is a legitimate question, thanks for asking. People are asking often why this is. The completely uncomplicated answer is funding. The NHS is having to implement cuts in their service, as you all know and have read in all of the press. They must make savings across the board normally starting with frontline staff like nurses, middle management etc. Then more expensive surgeries need to be cut and Elliot's surgery is a very expensive one. There are a lot of people in the same boat at the moment. We just don't know as yet if there is any funding available for the SDR surgerys this year. We are working to raise funds based on a worst case scenario where we get no NHS funding and have to finance it as a private surgery. If by some miracle the operation is funded fully the 2 years of post op physiotherapy is not covered fully by the NHS. To get the most benefit from the surgery Elliot must ungergo a very intensive post op program otherwise the operation may cause detrimental effects for Elliot's mobility. The post op physio alone will cost £30,000. We are very grateful to the NHS and all its members who have supported and helped us and are trying to make this operation happen. We can't fault them at all. Alas, at this difficult economic time they are being forced to cut services. Thanks James Gower jamesgower1976

11:46am Wed 1 Jan 14

Just_Sayin' says...

Bournemouth Ohec wrote:
I'm so sorry that this child suffers the way he does.

I am puzzled, and this is a genuine question, nothing more;

Great Ormond Street Hospital is part of the NHS. Why do funds have to be raised in order for him to have treatment there?

I would imagine that I am not the only person wondering this.
Great Ormond Street do a small number of these procedures a year after the technique was introduced from America. It used to be the case that families had to fund raise up to £70,000 in order to fly to, and receive the treatment in the USA. I too would be interested to know what exactly the money is needed for if they have been offered treatment at an NHS hospital.
[quote][p][bold]Bournemouth Ohec[/bold] wrote: I'm so sorry that this child suffers the way he does. I am puzzled, and this is a genuine question, nothing more; Great Ormond Street Hospital is part of the NHS. Why do funds have to be raised in order for him to have treatment there? I would imagine that I am not the only person wondering this.[/p][/quote]Great Ormond Street do a small number of these procedures a year after the technique was introduced from America. It used to be the case that families had to fund raise up to £70,000 in order to fly to, and receive the treatment in the USA. I too would be interested to know what exactly the money is needed for if they have been offered treatment at an NHS hospital. Just_Sayin'

12:16pm Wed 1 Jan 14

Bournemouth Ohec says...

Thank you for your response.

It must be an awful situation to be in.
Thank you for your response. It must be an awful situation to be in. Bournemouth Ohec

12:17pm Wed 1 Jan 14

bosco1 says...

In this sad day of fraud online it may be a better thing to set up an account with a uk bank or building society with an account number and sort code and the fund/charity raising name, This would ensure funds get to the correct funding once a person donates funds it will be in the bank the same day.?
In this sad day of fraud online it may be a better thing to set up an account with a uk bank or building society with an account number and sort code and the fund/charity raising name, This would ensure funds get to the correct funding once a person donates funds it will be in the bank the same day.? bosco1

1:45pm Wed 1 Jan 14

pete woodley says...

James Gower.While we all sympathise,there must be many who are still not sure of the figures you quote,if funding becomes fully available,why is £70.000 still needed ?.
James Gower.While we all sympathise,there must be many who are still not sure of the figures you quote,if funding becomes fully available,why is £70.000 still needed ?. pete woodley

2:08pm Wed 1 Jan 14

we-shall-see says...

pete woodley wrote:
James Gower.While we all sympathise,there must be many who are still not sure of the figures you quote,if funding becomes fully available,why is £70.000 still needed ?.
Perhaps if the money is raised and then not needed for Elliot, it will go towards other children having the surgery - or perhaps to buy necessary equipment for Elliot?
[quote][p][bold]pete woodley[/bold] wrote: James Gower.While we all sympathise,there must be many who are still not sure of the figures you quote,if funding becomes fully available,why is £70.000 still needed ?.[/p][/quote]Perhaps if the money is raised and then not needed for Elliot, it will go towards other children having the surgery - or perhaps to buy necessary equipment for Elliot? we-shall-see

7:48pm Wed 1 Jan 14

HRH of Boscombe says...

we-shall-see wrote:
pete woodley wrote:
James Gower.While we all sympathise,there must be many who are still not sure of the figures you quote,if funding becomes fully available,why is £70.000 still needed ?.
Perhaps if the money is raised and then not needed for Elliot, it will go towards other children having the surgery - or perhaps to buy necessary equipment for Elliot?
It says 'appeal to raise money for life changing surgery'
.
Some donators might feel very deceived if it's not for that purpose as the surgery is what creates the urgency in the appeal!
[quote][p][bold]we-shall-see[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]pete woodley[/bold] wrote: James Gower.While we all sympathise,there must be many who are still not sure of the figures you quote,if funding becomes fully available,why is £70.000 still needed ?.[/p][/quote]Perhaps if the money is raised and then not needed for Elliot, it will go towards other children having the surgery - or perhaps to buy necessary equipment for Elliot?[/p][/quote]It says 'appeal to raise money for life changing surgery' . Some donators might feel very deceived if it's not for that purpose as the surgery is what creates the urgency in the appeal! HRH of Boscombe

9:05pm Wed 1 Jan 14

Tinker76 says...

bosco1 wrote:
In this sad day of fraud online it may be a better thing to set up an account with a uk bank or building society with an account number and sort code and the fund/charity raising name, This would ensure funds get to the correct funding once a person donates funds it will be in the bank the same day.?
We run a charity and have a charity bank account, three times in the last 4 months we have had unauthorised direct debits taken from the account. Unbelievable! Thankfully Barclays have relevant fraud cover and reimbursed us but it just goes to show you cannot be too careful, always keep a check on your money.
[quote][p][bold]bosco1[/bold] wrote: In this sad day of fraud online it may be a better thing to set up an account with a uk bank or building society with an account number and sort code and the fund/charity raising name, This would ensure funds get to the correct funding once a person donates funds it will be in the bank the same day.?[/p][/quote]We run a charity and have a charity bank account, three times in the last 4 months we have had unauthorised direct debits taken from the account. Unbelievable! Thankfully Barclays have relevant fraud cover and reimbursed us but it just goes to show you cannot be too careful, always keep a check on your money. Tinker76

9:30pm Wed 1 Jan 14

whataboutthat says...

70k - a five minute spend in Afghanstan.
Bring the boys back home....
70k - a five minute spend in Afghanstan. Bring the boys back home.... whataboutthat

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