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The past few weeks YouTube has been showing me advertising asking to make donations to help pay medical bills for sick children via a crowdfunding site called Drove.

However, the ads look very suspicious. In one example, a child called Tovi in a hospital beds talks in a Slavic language about being very sick and being afraid of dying if she doesn't receive the right treatment, but no specifics about the disease are given. She then says there is a doctor in Boston who can help her, but again, no specifics are given. You are then asked to donate via drove.com but it remains unclear what exactly the money will be used for, or how much is needed. The whole ad seems made with stock footage of models acting like doctors and pharmacists, and the supposed hospital in Boston is just a building with the word "hospital" on it, but no name.

Everything about this screams "scam", but I wonder whether the whole Drove site is a scam, or just this campaign. I also wonder how it is possible for a scam like this to remain on YouTube for weeks without being taken down. What authority would you report this kind of thing to anyway?

Is it possible that this is some sort of half-scam, and these are actually sick children, but the campaign is intentionally vague about how much money is needed, and what portion of donations is actually going to the children, so that they can claim legitimacy even if the children receive only a small amount from the campaign?

I'm hoping someone can shed some light on this in an answer, so that people wondering whether to donate or not may find this question and make a more informed decision.

screenshot from YouTube ad campaign

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    the ads are obviously a silly scam. (note that "drove" is just a processing platform) – Fattie Mar 3 at 12:07
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    Ad fraud is a big problem in digital advertising, so there's definitely a chance that it's a scam. But there's also a chance that it's legit. Medical details are private information, so it makes sense that an ad asking for donations wouldn't go into lengthy details - this is probably only one kid out of many they would hope to assist anyway. Stock footage of actors pretending to be doctors (or stock footage of real doctors that was sold for adveritising purposes) is a legitimate tool anyway - as long as the message itself is not disingenuous. Do more research on the company to be sure. – Steve-O Mar 3 at 14:42
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    Also suspicious that a Boston Doctor can help her, but not a British, German, French, or Swiss doctor that might be closer. Smacks of a sentimental hook. – mckenzm Mar 3 at 20:42
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    For what it's worth, Hebrew is not a Slavic language. – OldBunny2800 Mar 3 at 21:26
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    @mckenzm - they could have 20 versions of the video that play based on your geographical location. It could be Boston doctor to some or Paris doctor to others. – blankip Mar 3 at 22:50
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Drove is an eCommerce platform, not a crowdfunding platform. They provide payment processing services for all kinds of customers. They are just the middle-man, not the organization actually asking for and receiving the donations.

So the question is not whether Drove is a scam, it's whether the organization placing those ads is a scam. Your question does not contain enough information to tell what organization actually places those ads. But when it's difficult for you to find out, then that's a red flag.

There are a lot of charities doing very good work with donations, but there are also a couple bad apples who only collect money for themselves. So I would advise anyone intending to donate money to do due diligence and do some research to find out if the organizations they donate to actually use the money for the purposes they claim they use them for. Reputable organizations will usually be transparent about how much money they spend on advertisement, how much they spend on administration of their organization and how much money is actually spent on their cause.

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    Use reputable charity review sites like Guide Star or Charity Navigator to evaluate charities, not just their websites or social media pages. (At least for the US.) – BobbyScon Mar 3 at 18:15
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    Also worth noting that Drove is actually set up to be like GoFundMe in that it is crowdfunding (AKA "social-fundraising"), not just acting as a payment processor. The screenshot from the OP is from the video on a Drove.com campaign for a supposed non-profit. I'm not going to link to it because I believe it is a scam (the campaign, not Drove itself). – BobbyScon Mar 3 at 21:45
  • @BobbyScon How do I know those sites are reputable? I've never heard of them before. (Or, how do I know drove isn't, compared to them?) – jpaugh Mar 4 at 18:58
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    @jpaugh - Those particular sites are well-known within the non-profit industry and are well referenced by other sites as a source for research. There are other sites/resources available to research non-profits, but I more wanted to point out that one shouldn't just look at information published on the charity's website or campaign ads. As was also mentioned, Drove is not the charity here. Researching Drove won't actually yield results that will help determine legitimacy about the fundraiser OP describes. How does anyone know that anyone else is reputable? Trust but verify. – BobbyScon Mar 4 at 19:13
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    I really thought your answer was good until I specifically looked into the Drove platform. So sorry your answer is wrong. It is not a processing platform, it is actually a marketing and user info sharing platform that targets users through APIs (facebook/google/adsense - just guesses) and then uses the user information to get users to donate to companies - yes users donate to companies! They charge 5% for the marketing and use of their user data. So they are in fact far from a processing platform for charities. – blankip Mar 4 at 21:26
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The assumption that you should make with any sort of ad like this is that it is a scam.

Why?

Because if you want to donate money to children in need there are numerous charities that offer a high return on your money.

Why is this one bad?

In general a "good" charity will post lots of information about how they spend your money or have links to their website that does. Also good charities tend not to use middlemen (Drove) as that takes away from the percentage or proceedings that go to the needy.

What is a good charity?

A good charity is one that effectively uses your money. There are lots of charities that are not scams that have a very low percentage of your money going to the needy - these charities spend too much on ads, administration, and marketing leads. Basically there are non-profits that are very profitable if you work for them. Good charities will have people possibly making a lot of money but they should still be allocating at least 2/3s to their needy. The Red Cross for example is around 90%.

In my opinion - and it isn't universal - is that if you aren't hitting 2/3s of the money mark your charity is either not needed (needs too much advertisement) or it is a scam to make huge profits for the people that work for it. No matter how nice the charity is.

How about the children?

The children in the video don't matter - well they do - but not for your donations. The children and their story has nothing to do with what the charity actionably does with your money. If those children were fake, but they used your money to help children is that bad? Or, would you rather have those children in the video be really dying or having serious issues, but only 20% of your money goes to them while charity CEO is cruising in his beamer?

How do I get more info?

I would use a site like https://www.charitynavigator.org/ to help get data to evaluate the charity in question. There are several other sites that do charity evaluations too. Note that these sites do not get a perfect set of data and a lot of times rely on tax records (that can be how should we say it... swayed with grey accounting) but they are a good start.

Don't all companies need a middleman to take care of payments?

Well kind of. I would never put Stripe, Paypal, AMEX, Visa, and so on as "middlemen". They are simply payment processing mechanisms. They don't really provide a service other than helping transfer funds. Yes this is normal.

What are sites like Drove?

Drove is a gofundme page for businesses. It makes me almost sick that as a society we are OK with this. Not only are they monetizing their customers but their customers are monetizing an industry rampant with lies, fraud, and scams. Looking at their basic info they charge 2.9% per transaction + .30 - it might seem slightly more than the companies listed above but an extra .5% on millions of dollars is a big big deal. This is well above industry average for processing fees.

But wait. That doesn't even cover their 5% platform fee. So every company pays 5% on every transaction. No way in the world a good, well-organized charity lets another company skim 5% of their money plus have access to their user data via API. You think the Red Cross wants to share who donated to it to 5000 other charities (no way)? I hate to be mean and generalize - but platforms like Drove are meant to sucker people into donating and suckering the same people over and over by sharing user data in its API. Read its website, it tells you all of this in a "nice way".

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    I don't think using middlemen like Drove is a red flag. Anyone who does e-commerce uses a third-party service to process payments, it's simply not practical to do this yourself. Although it's usually behind the scenes, you don't link visibly to the third-party site. – Barmar Mar 4 at 16:29
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    I would also note that overhead is not the same as utility provided. Charity which uses 99% of money for useless purpose might be overall worse than one using 2/3 of money for very important one (of course such charity is probably much worse than one which gives 90% for the same purpose...). If you are interested in 'how much utility will $1 of my money give' there are sites like givewell.org which provides research into this topic. – Maciej Piechotka Mar 4 at 17:07
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    You can also take a look at GiveWell, which focuses on maximum lives saved/improved per dollar donated: givewell.org/charities/top-charities. – JonathanReez Mar 4 at 19:37
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    I didn't know that about Drove, but your statement seemed to be about all middlemen (including well known services like PayPal and Stripe), not just ones that charge excess fees. – Barmar Mar 4 at 21:06
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    @Barmar - I never mentioned paypal or stripe. Every company has to have a processing company - or have a sophisticated system to allow cash via account transfers. Drove is not a processing company, it is an advertising platform for donations. They work with a processing company - which may be a 3rd party or subsidiary. Sites like this are a breeding ground for scams. – blankip Mar 4 at 21:09
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I'm pretty sure ads seen on Youtube and Facebook are fraudulent

Let's start from ads.

Youtube channels they use:

Lots of the ads you see are created by this company: https://turbodigital.co.il/en/home-page-2/ which partners with middlemen: drove.com, givestart.org and others (the ones you see listed in the ads).

Interesting fact is that ads point to give.rachasheilev-fund.org and israelcancercenters.org while the official (legit?) site is rachasheilev.org (at least it lists contact details, has board of directors and provides certificates).

Same with Facebook. Official is https://www.facebook.com/rachasheilev/, linked from the ads: https://www.facebook.com/rachasheilevisrael/

The people behind israelcancercenters are https://apps.irs.gov/app/eos/detailsPage?ein=200379354&name=Friends%20of%20Rachashei%20Lev-Whispers%20of%20the%20Heart&city=Teaneck&state=NJ&countryAbbr=US&dba=&type=CHARITIES,%20COPYOFRETURNS&orgTags=CHARITIES&orgTags=COPYOFRETURNS

Drove is sketchy as the website is unfinished (half russian/half english) for a business product, company executives are not listed, where is license to operate as payment collector?, etc... Givestart is even worse. Basically, you would be sending your money to some blackhole acc.

I made an impression that all these ads are an elaborate scam to use known? charity name in order to extract money from unsuspecting people for not so known charity with a similar name.

Cancer fraud is common: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/20/business/4-cancer-charities-accused-in-ftc-fraud-case.html

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The most strange aspect in the whole story, the real Rachashei Lev organization (https://www.facebook.com/rachasheilev/) , is located in Israel, but the campaign version of Rachashei Lev (https://www.facebook.com/rachasheilevisrael/) is located in the USA. That appears very strange indeed!

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