SAN JOSE, Calif. - There’s a warning out for those seeking to support the families of those killed in last week’s mass shooting at a Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) rail yard: Beware of fake fundraising efforts purported to be set up to benefit the families.
At least one fake site has been uncovered. San Jose Councilman Raul Peralez posted a warning about the fraudulent campaign on Facebook on Thursday, with a photo of the fraudulent site stamped with "SCAM" across it.
"The local authorities have been notified and we strongly advise that the public not contribute to this account," Peralez said.
The fraudulent account, titled "Michael Rudometkin Burial Fund," was set up in the name of 40-year-old Michael Joseph Rudometkin who was a close childhood friend of the councilman.
Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40.
Last Wednesday, following the shooting, Peralez shared his grief, saying, "My family and I have lost a long time great friend and there are no words to describe the heartache we are feeling right now, especially for his family."
The nine victims killed in a mass shooting at a VTA facility in San Jose on May 26, 2021.
Rudometkin was one of nine people gunned down early Wednesday before the shooter, 57-year-old VTA employee, Samuel Cassidy took his own life.
Following such tragedies, it’s not uncommon for scammers to try and capitalize on a community’s desire to try and help those impacted.
In this case, officials with GoFundMe told KTVU that the fake account was not on its platform and was created on another fundraising site.
GoFundMe identified the verified campaign set up for the Rudometkin family, which can be found here. The company said that currently, it was the only fundraiser on its site dedicated to the family of Michael Rudometkin.
The Redwood City-based crowdfunding leader told KTVU, "... there’s a lot of work behind the scenes to ensure GoFundMe is the safest place to give, and we have a number of safeguards in place to ensure the money goes to the right hands."
And it noted that it is hyper-vigilant in these efforts following a major tragedy like the VTA mass shooting. "...we immediately begin monitoring the platform 24/7 for all new fundraisers created to help the victims, families, and the community," GoFundMe spokesperson Nicole Santos said, adding, "Our top priority is to balance speed and safety to ensure funds arrive as quickly as possible, and into the hands of those in need."
The company stressed that its most important goals were to protect donors and that recipients receive money that has been raised on their behalf. "The platform is backed by a comprehensive refund policy which means funds are guaranteed to go to the right place or donors will receive a refund," Santos said.
Those who want to donate to help the families of the VTA shooting through GoFundMe can check to see if the campaign that they’re giving to is legitimate. The company said its Trust & Safety team has reviewed every fundraiser set up through its site and established a centralized hub where users can find all verified fundraisers dedicated to the families of those killed in the San Jose mass shooting.
Unfortunately, it’s efforts like these will prevent scammers from trying to capitalize on the vulnerability of a community dealing with pain and loss in the wake of a tragedy.
And Councilman Peralez had strong words to those who prey on those who were hurting. "It is cowardly," he said, "for individuals to take advantage of families who are already experiencing the unimaginable and now subjecting them to these predatory tactics."