Fake charity ads on Youtube

I hate when someone asks me for money, so I’m very unlikely to fall for these kinds of scams. But a lot of people clearly do as the presence of these ads might suggest.

If you are a charity and still have finances for stupid marketing campaigns, you are probably doing something wrong – if you waste donated money on ads, you can’t be taken seriously. Fake charities in particular have to use ads since that’s pretty much the only way they can get noticed, since people are unlikely to organically share their fishy campaigns.

Let’s see how you can spot them.

Example of manipulative charity video ads

You might have seen them – ads showing people in need, often children who are supposedly ill, hungry or whatever. This is very persuasive tactic that can make empathetic people feel guilty and give out their money.

These are some of the many charity ads you can see on Youtube. The first two ads are associated with the Turbo digital Youtube channel which belongs to an Israeli marketing agency that apparently specializes on running crowdfunding campaigns for non-profit organisations; one of them is Merkaz Hatzdaka which is allegedly a legitimate charity. But with their manipulative donation tier descriptions like “Don’t move on! Let’s help Michael!” (2400 €) or “Don’t ignore the plight of Michael and his mother!” (3600 €) on their givestart.org page they really don’t make me feel like they’re genuine at all, and I wouln’t be surprised this kind of operation was a huge scam. The last ad is associated with some another Israeli/Russian Youtube channel which content looks pretty much the same though.

Here’s a related Reddit thread full of similarly skeptical people: https://www.reddit.com/r/NoStupidQuestions/comments/ih6y3o/is_drovecom_a_scam/

Example of a fake charity: CaliforniaWildfireRelief.com

When you enter the keyword “charity”or something similar in the search bar of Google or Youtube, you’ll see a bunch of ads begging for your money. Let’s take a look at one of them:

Fake charity CaliforniaWildfireRelief.com

For some reason they also happen to mention Australia in the ad. Weird.

When you go to their website, there’s no contact info about the website operator or anything that could help you verify who they are and what they’re doing with the donations. They have just some random content, some links to legitimate sites, legitimate phone numbers of someone totally unrelated to the site, and a donation form.

When I looked up the URL on Google, a link to an about page popped up, which doesn’t exist on the website anymore, but was still in Google cache:

Fake charity - californiawildfirerelief.com

Turns out that when you search for some of the texts on the website, an apparently sister website australiawildlifefund.com will show up, which has pretty much the same design and content. That could explain the mistake in the lazily created ad and the missing about page of the AWF site from which this website was probably cloned.

When you Google the phrase “There is an immediate need to locate, rescue and care for injured animals” from the sister site, there’s a bunch of other sites with the same text, including some gofundme.com page. Net very trustworthy at all.

And Youtube/Google as always does nothing. And I wouldn’t hold my breath, considering their response to the cryptocurrency scams, where they just said that they bear no responsibility, meanwhile profiting of these scammy ads.

3 thoughts on “Fake charity ads on Youtube

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