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GoFundMe took down the “Freedom Convoy 2022” fundraiser page, saying it violated a policy against promoting violence and harassment, and said it would refund those who donated.
Social media users encouraged people to dispute the donation charges on their credit cards, suggesting it would force GoFundMe to pay chargeback fees for each transaction.
An expert said it is unlikely banks would allow customers to pursue chargebacks after a company has announced it will issue refunds.
The crowdfunding site GoFundMe has provoked the ire of those supporting the group of truckers who continue to protest vaccine mandates and other government regulations in Canada.
Citing law enforcement reports of unlawful activity associated with a GoFundMe-supported trucker convoy in Canada, the fundraising platform announced Feb. 4 it would remove the "Freedom Convoy 2022" fundraiser page from its website, which had generated millions of dollars in donations.
A Facebook post suggests people who are unhappy with GoFundMe’s decision should take steps to make the company pay.
"This is a better way to get back at an organization that has attempted to stifle free speech!" read the Feb. 6 Facebook post that also shared an image with the words "GoFundMe Charge Back."
"If you donated through go fund me do not request a refund," the words in the image said. "Instead call your bank and have it processed as a chargeback for service not rendered. Go fund me will be forced to cover the chargeback fees, which are usually $25-40 per chargeback."
The Facebook post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) Suggestions of the strategy also circulated on Twitter.
PolitiFact found that while there’s a chance GoFundMe could be damaged by such an effort, there’s really no guarantee such a strategy would achieve what was intended. That’s because there are systems in place for companies to defend against what one expert termed "chargeback abuse."
When GoFundMe took down the page, the fundraising campaign had already generated donations of more than $8 million. The company said it has a policy of supporting peaceful protests, but law enforcement reports indicated that the convoy was no longer lawful and free of violence, meaning the page was in violation. GoFundMe initially announced it would distribute $1 million from the fund to peaceful protest participants and told donors they could apply for a refund. Otherwise, the company said it planned to "send all remaining funds to credible and established charities chosen by the Freedom Convoy 2022 organizers and verified by GoFundMe."
Faced with backlash from notable figures, GoFundMe by about 3 a.m. on Feb. 5 changed its plans: "Due to donor feedback, we are simplifying the process. We will automatically refund all contributions directly — donors do not need to submit a request."
The protest’s organizers, meanwhile, set up a new fundraiser page on the Christian site GiveSendGo.
But many of the convoy’s supporters used Facebook and Twitter to share posts encouraging GoFundMe donors to dispute their credit card charges anyway, hoping to make GoFundMe incur a wave of chargeback fees.
GoFundMe did not respond to PolitiFact’s requests for comment about this strategy, and experts say there’s no guarantee such a campaign would play out the way convoy supporters intended.
Generally speaking, businesses incur chargeback fees for a credit card transaction when a customer "requests reimbursement for a purchase or when a bank identifies possible fraud," according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The fees could range from about $15 to $100 or more per transaction.
With refunds already promised, what does that mean for the effort to hit GoFundMe with fees?
A Mastercard spokesperson said the purpose of a chargeback is to return a consumer’s money when services were not rendered or products were not delivered as promised.
"If the merchant gives the money back to the consumer, there is no right for a chargeback," she said.
Monica Eaton-Cardone, chief operating officer of Chargebacks911, a company that works to limit chargebacks for businesses, said that, without knowing how many charges would be disputed, it is difficult to say how a coordinated effort to request chargebacks would impact GoFundMe.
While it’s possible a sudden surge in chargeback activity could be damaging to a company, the donors’ mass effort to protest credit card charges could also backfire, she said.
"If there’s a known, coordinated effort underway to try and ‘punish’ a company with chargebacks, that could actually work in the company’s favor," Eaton-Cardone said. "Participating in a coordinated chargeback campaign like this would probably be seen as chargeback abuse, so a bank may choose to deny the request."
She emphasized that banks have discretion over whether to issue a chargeback to cardholders, who she said are expected to "act honestly and in good faith."
In a situation where a company already said it would issue a refund, Eaton-Cardone said "it’s likely that the bank will instruct cardholders to pursue the refund option, rather than indulge them with a chargeback."
There can also be risks for consumers who dispute credit card charges without first trying to resolve an issue with a business. A NerdWallet article cautioned that filing an illegitimate chargeback could forfeit the right to a refund, get a customer blacklisted by a business or even prompt a credit card issuer to terminate an account.
A Facebook post claimed that disputing credit card charges for GoFundMe "Freedom Convoy 2022" donations and trying to hit GoFundMe with chargeback fees was "a better way to get back at" the company.
An expert said it is unlikely banks would allow customers to pursue chargebacks after GoFundMe said it would issue refunds. An increase in chargeback requests could hurt a company, but a coordinated chargeback campaign might also prompt banks to deny chargeback requests, she said.
We rate this claim Mostly False.
Facebook post, Feb. 6, 2022
Facebook post, Feb. 7, 2022
Tweets, Feb. 5, 2022
Tweets, Feb. 5, 2022
GoFundMe, "UPDATE: GoFundMe to refund all Freedom Convoy 2022 donations," Feb. 5, 2022
NerdWallet, "What Is a Chargeback? What Business Owners Need to Know," Feb. 2, 2021
U.S. Chamber of Commerce, "Understanding Credit Card Processing Fees and Chargebacks," accessed Feb. 8, 2022
Email interview with Mastercard spokesperson, Feb. 9, 2022
Bankrate.com, "Card refund tips for crowdfunding sites, scams," July, 13, 2017
GoFundMe, "Chargebacks and disputes," accessed Feb. 9, 2022
GoFundMe, "What is the GoFundMe Guarantee?" accessed Feb. 9, 2022
BuzzFeed News, "GoFundMe Is Going To Refund Millions Of Dollars In Donations Made To The Viral Canadian Trucker Protest," Feb. 5, 2022
The Washington Post, "Frozen out of GoFundMe, Canadian protest convoy raises millions on Christian site," Feb. 7, 2022
NerdWallet, "When Credit Card Disputes Become ‘Friendly Fraud,’" Aug. 25, 2021
Payment Cloud, "What to Know About the Dreaded Chargeback Fee," Sept. 27, 2021
Email interview with Chargebacks911 Chief Operating Officer, Monica Eaton-Cardone, Feb. 9, 2022
Chargebacks911, "Chargeback Fraud," Jan. 19, 2022
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