Gabby Petito's family warns of fake GoFundMe pages exploiting her disappearance
Scammers are reportedly trying to exploit the disappearance of Gabby Petito by setting up fraudulent fundraising pages and asking for donations. Authorities are desperately trying to piece together what exactly happened to the 22-year-old road tripper. She was supposed to go to the Yellowstone National Park to meet a friend but never did, as MEAWW reported on September 16.
Gabby texted her mom that she was at Yosemite, 800 miles away in California on Aug 30 mentioning that there was a lack of signal. The latest update on Sept 16 indicated that the van Petito and her boyfriend Brian Laundrie used was last seen at Jenny Lake in Grand Teton national park on August 25, after which she has not been heard of.
In the wake of public attention on Gabby's disappearance, Petito's family has been forced to alert the public about possible scammers soliciting funds to help search efforts for the missing 22-year-old. "We are aware of other illegitimate requests for donations, please be aware," the family wrote on the 'Find Gabby' page on Facebook. "The family has only authorized TWO Fundraising efforts to help with our search. This GoFundMe & The effort by our long-time friends at the John MacNamara foundation," they added.
The only authorized GoFundMe page is organized by Gary Rider and has raised nearly $64,000 at the time of writing. However, NBC 2 reportedly found at least four GoFundMe pages asking for money to help find Petito. The family posted another statement on Saturday, September 18, alerting well-wishers about the fake fundraisers. "Please be aware of scam websites out there trying to create donation pages. The only two places you can do that are right here on the links pinned to the top of the page. Thank you all for your support!!!"
Supporters of the family slammed those exploiting the tragedy to scam donors out of money. "Sick people using others' pain to profit, how despicable. Praying for Gabby and your family," one commented on the Find Gabby Facebook page. "People are disgusting taking advantage of this serious situation," another added.
The Petito family thanked those who had donated to the one authorized GoFundMe page. "Again, thank you for your donations that allow us to travel and maintain the ongoing search for Gabby," they wrote on the website earlier this week.
Meanwhile, the family has reportedly also authorized the John MacNamara foundation to raise money for Petito. "Gabby is the daughter of longtime volunteer and current Johnny Mac Board Member Nichole Schmidt," the foundation's website states. "Gabby is missing - last seen in the area of Grand Teton National Park. With family permission, we are raising funds to assist them with travel and other needs as they search for Gabby."
GoFundMe assured MEAWW in a statement that "funds are guaranteed to go to the right place, or donors will be refunded."
"Following a tragedy like this, it’s not uncommon to see multiple fundraisers set up by community members to support the family. What’s important to know is that GoFundMe is monitoring the platform and removing any fundraisers without a clear connection to the Petito family," the statement read in part. "We are in direct contact with the family to ensure they are aware of any fundraising efforts."
Petito has been missing for over a fortnight after embarking on a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend Laundrie, who returned home without her and has since lawyered up and refused to work with the police. It was later reported that Laundrie, officially a person of interest in the case, had suddenly disappeared from his home on September 12. His family requested officers with the North Port Police Department to visit their Florida home on September 16, nearly a week into the search for Petito. "His family has reported that they have not seen Brian as of Tuesday," North Port Police Public Information Officer Josh Taylor told the New York Post.
BREAKING: Brian Laundrie’s attorney says Brian was last seen by his parents Tuesday morning. pic.twitter.com/wVU76Khjtr— Kristin Thorne (@KristinThorne) September 18, 2021
More than 50 North Port police officers with the assistance of the FBI, conducted a vast search in the Carlton Reserve in the Sarasota area on Saturday, Sept 17. “His family says they believe he entered the area earlier this week," North Port police said as they scoured the area of about 25,000 acres. The search for Laundrie was called off until Sunday, Sept 19 due to darkness.