GoFundMe issuing refunds following false East Van sex assault allegation

GoFundMe issuing refunds

Money raised online for an incident that police say was not accurately portrayed on social media can be refunded to people who donated. 

Police say a viral claim about a woman being sexually assaulted and kidnapped in East Vancouver that raised more than $15,000 was inaccurate.

The social media post started circulating, wrongly claiming a woman had been abducted and sexually assaulted in November. Instead, police believe the woman sustained injuries from falling off a scooter. 

Glacier Media reached out to Vancouver police about the social media post and reported on Nov. 10 that the incident was not sexually motivated and that there was no risk to the public. 

Vancouver police concluded their investigation on Nov. 29 and say the social media post stoked community fear after misinformation went viral. 

“After speaking with the woman involved, retracing her steps, and conducting an extensive video review, we have now confirmed that she was not the victim of a violent crime," said VPD's Sgt. Steve Addison Wednesday.

Glacier Media reached out to GoFundMe to ask directly what happens to the money raised for the false allegation and was told "GoFundMe remains in full control of the funds."

A spokesperson says anyone who would like a refund should fill out this GoFundMe form

The spokesperson adds: "All donors are protected by the GoFundMe Giving Guarantee which means all funds get to the right place or will be refunded."

Annelie Free, the creator of the still active fundraiser, says it was a lesson learned. 

"Throughout this whole ordeal, no statement was made with the intent to deceive anyone,” she says. "I take accountability for jumping on the initial wave of shock and horror.”

Free notes GoFundMe will keep a hold on the funds being deposited "to give everyone a chance to make their own informed choice." 

"After a period of time, the hold will be released and she can then deposit whatever remains,” she says.

As of Dec. 1, more than $1,500 has been refunded. The fundraiser currently sits at $13,461. 

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