SHIRLEY — GoFundMe is often used to help people raise money for loved ones or those fighting for a good cause. But left unchecked, it can also be misused by other people.
Shirley Police Chief Samuel Santiago confirmed last week that the department is investigating the legitimacy of three different fundraising pages on the GoFundMe website. Santiago said the department received a tip on Dec. 11 and had been looking into discussions about the pages taking place on Facebook.
The first of the three pages in question is titled “Family that all had Covid19 needs holiday help,” which was created on Nov. 26 by Michelle Bomil. Though the page is no longer accepting donations, it did manage to raise $700.
The second page being investigated is titled “Mother diagnosed with cancer is in desperate need.” Organized by Kelley Linkus on Dec. 7, the page says that Linkus was diagnosed with breast cancer and needs to pay a percentage of the medical treatment required. The page is looking to raise $1,500.
Another GoFundMe page was established on Dec. 7 by a woman named Kelley Linkis, with a different spelling, also titled “Mother diagnosed with cancer is in desperate need.” The page was apparently established on behalf of a woman named Michelle Noel, a woman who Linkis said on the page was “a very good friend” diagnosed with cervical cancer in October 2018. The page also had a fundraising goal of $1,500. As of Dec. 20, the page can no longer be found on the GoFundMe website.
Madison Jones, GoFundme’s spokesperson for the north east region, said on Dec. 15 that the organization’s Trust & Safety team is also aware of the situation and investigating.
“Fundraisers with misuse are very rare, making up less than one tenth of one percent of fundraisers on our platform and we take all complaints very seriously,” Jones said. “In the rare instance that someone does create a misleading fundraiser with the intention of taking advantage of others’ generosity, GoFundMe takes swift action to resolve the issue. Our policy is simple and strictly enforced: It is not permitted to lie or intentionally deceive donors on GoFundMe for financial or personal gain.”
Michelle Westberry, a Shirley resident who police said is allegedly involved in the probe, said on Wednesday that she is cooperating with the investigations and offered no further comment.