Family warns about bogus fundraising in wake of fatal Hammond fire
BY TERESA AUCH SCHULTZ firstname.lastname@example.org January 14, 2014 3:44PM
Services were held Monday for the three children killed earlier this month in a fire at the family's duplex, pictured here after the blaze, in Hammond, Ind. | Jim Karczewski~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 16, 2014 6:33AM
The grandmother of three children who died in a Hammond house fire last week says someone has created a bogus Web page purportedly to raise money for her family.
The page, created on the website Gofundme.com, had raised $875 as of Tuesday afternoon. It includes a plea alleged to be from Michelle Young, the mother of the children who died and two others who were injured. The page also sets a financial goal of $40,000 and includes pictures of the family’s burned homes as well as a short description of what happened to them.
However, Young’s mother, Stephanie Pittman, said no one from the family is involved with the Web page and that no one has contacted them about the page.
Pittman said she has also heard of someone going door-to-door to collect money, although she does not know that person, either.
The only authorized fund for the family has been established at First Midwest Bank. Donations can be made at any bank branch to the Young Family Fund.
No one responded to a message left for the person running the donation page, and no one from Gofundme.com responded to a message left with the company.
Gofundme.com says on its website that people should donate only to people they know and that the company does not verify people who create donation pages. The website also says all payment collections are handled by those raising money and go directly to them. The company provides a button to alert it to suspicious activity.
Hammond Lt. Rich Hoyda said he had not heard of the page or anyone going to door-to-door allegedly trying to collect money for the Young family but said he could see it happening.
Hoyda said he hasn’t heard of similar schemes happening recently but that police would look into one if alerted. At the same time, he cautioned, some might truly be trying to raise money for the family on their own and will eventually give them the money.
Connie Kann, area director for the Better Business Bureau, said donation requests on websites like Gofundme are hard to verify.
“It’s sad the way people take advantage of sites like this,” she said.
She urged people interested in donating money to a cause to call those directly involved in it. The BBB is working with Lake County charities and the United Way to create a website of all the charities that have met 20 standards from the BBB. That’s only for formal groups, however, and not for individuals raising money for a specific instance like the Young family.
She say creating an account at a bank, as has been done for the Young family, helps add security in that a bank will verify who creates the account.
“It just shows legitimacy to the whole operation,” she said.
Hammond fire officials say it appears the fire that destroyed the home, at 644 Sibley Blvd., was an accident caused by a space heater.
Three children — Dasani Young, 4; Alexia Young, 3, and Jaden Young, 7 months — died. Their father, Andrew Young, 28, was badly burned. Two other children, Isaiah Sammon, 6, and Evian Young, 2, were released from the hospital Saturday night.
Post-Tribune reporter Carole Carlson contributed to this story.