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How does Twitter Philanthropy work?

Posted in advice, philanthropy, scams by commorancy on April 23, 2020

blur cash close up dollars

How does all of this Twitter philanthropy actually work? Let’s explore the seedier side of it.

Twitter Philanthropy Exposed

I won’t name any specific accounts simply because there are too many of these accounts preying on people’s needs, but let me expose how these accounts REALLY work. There is one on top of this pile, but I will let you find it yourself. If you search Google for the key words “Twitter Philanthropy“, you will find this specific Twitter account within the first 10 search results. But, don’t go run over there just yet to follow it before reading this article.

Twitter Impersonation

Let’s start this out by explaining how these accounts operate. While some of these large Twitter philanthropy accounts purport to be operated by a single individual, they are not. Instead, they are operated by a team of individuals who have access to this single Twitter account so named for a single person. In fact, this situation is in violation of Twitter’s Terms of Service rules of impersonation.

Impersonation is a violation of the Twitter Rules. Twitter accounts that pose as another person, brand, or organization in a confusing or deceptive manner may be permanently suspended under Twitter’s impersonation policy.

By operating an account as a team, rather than by the single individual named on the account, this is definitely impersonation… regardless of whether the single individual has authorized that “team” for that purpose.

If you are interacting with a Twitter account who appears to be a single person, but unbeknownst to you there are actually multiple people who are not the named individual operating that account, this is entirely deceptive and misleading… and the very definition of impersonation. You are not dealing with the person you think you are. This is in violation of Twitter’s rules. Whether Twitter sees it that way is entirely subjective and based on Twitter’s whims, unfortunately.

Team Accounts

There are many team operated accounts on Twitter. Many celebrities operate such accounts. Since the celeb can’t be at the account 24/7 to answer responses, they hire staff to manage these tweets. Most times, these celebrities are represented fairly and appropriately by their hired staff, mostly because the staffers remain in close contact with the celebrity to make sure the tweets are appropriate to the celebrity’s brand.

With these philanthropy accounts, it seems these are much more loosely operated. The team is made up of people around Twitter who manage this account and have Twitter accounts of their own. They don’t always seem to have direct approval of the account owner. If you read through some of these philanthropic account tweets, they seem to show random and incoherent tweet-to-tweet messaging, espousing differing and hypocritical ideals. Why? Because different people are posting these tweets to that single account under the guise of impersonating a single person.

Philanthropy Exposed

While these accounts may have started out as genuine philanthropy, they have degraded into an odd scam that takes advantage of people’s needs… and mostly exist as ways of gaining followers. Worse, these accounts breed even more scam artists. Scam artists who WILL take advantage of you and scam you in the process. I’ll talk about the scammers at the end and how those work. Let’s focus on the actual purported philanthropy accounts first.

Why a team?

Good question and one that you’ll understand once I explain it. Basically, it that more people looking for money through contributions means more money to share under the guise of philanthropy. Looking for contributions isn’t the problem here. It’s the WAY this team goes about looking for contribution money. If this single aspect doesn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth, keep following along as it gets so much worse.

The team that makes up the single top Twitter philanthropy account uses Twitter (and sites like GoFundMe) to gain money first. Instead of actually giving out money from the purported account owner, the team actually solicits money contributions from random people using dubious methods including begging, groveling and outright scamming using sites like GoFundMe. These team members are then adding their ill-gotten money into that Twitter account’s philanthropy fund for giveaways.

Here’s where the deceptive part comes in. This team of people collect these monies using their own personal accounts, accounts not associated with that Twitter philanthropy account. This makes it difficult to trace where that philanthropy money actually came from. Deceptive and a form of money laundering. Dirty. When other people contribute their money to one of these outside accounts for some possibly even fake purported need, this is a huge problem for these larger philanthropist accounts. Any money given out by a philanthropist shouldn’t have been obtained by using a scam. Yet, here we are.

Yes, this means this team is not actually giving out the philanthropy account owner’s money, as is implied by the account owner’s statements. Instead, that team is raising funds using outside means, possibly using deceptive means (claiming to be raising money on behalf of a veteran or claiming to have a high electric bill). Then, they take that money that has been raised and give it out on Twitter. Do they give out 100% of that contributed money? Do they use the money towards the claimed need? My guess to both of these questions is no. These philanthropy accounts might be keeping as much as 50% or more of the money they collect and, in turn, only give out 50% or less of those ill-gotten contributed funds.

It’s one thing to solicit money for an intended purpose and use it for that purpose. It’s entirely another to solicit money for a purpose, not use it for that purpose and give it away to someone on Twitter. Full disclosure here? Yeah, no. Not to mention the tax ramifications of such a setup.

Giving Money Away

While giving away money might seem a good thing, this action actually preys on people in need. Worse, the way these accounts are being managed is dubious at best. Yes, it gets even worse. These accounts have so many followers that they can’t possibly manage what gets written into their Tweets. What you’ll find in most of the Tweet replies consist of people claiming to also give away money. I’d bet that at least 99.9% of these people dropping in Tweet replies are scammers looking to part you from your money. It might even be some of the team running that same philanthropy account looking for money for their next “giveaway”.

This is why this situation is a double whammy for those in need. Not only is there so little money given away from these top Twitter philanthropy accounts (they can only raise a couple hundred dollars at a time usually), the Tweet replies are chock full of scam artists willing to take advantage of you.

The act of giving away this money on Twitter might seem altruistic, but I guarantee you that it is not. There is no altruism going on here. It’s all about gaining followers on Twitter and making it SEEM like the account is altruistic. It’s just a show. The reality is, it’s a business that follows the following formula:

  • Team hides behind Philanthropy account (unbeknownst to Twitter followers)
  • Team is tasked to raise money (using whatever dubious means necessary) from random individuals, each team member raising money separately using their own individual accounts
  • Team places raised money into Twitter account fund for “giveaways”
  • Team likely keeps much of that money for themselves as “payment”
  • Twitter Philanthropy occasionally awards random folks for random reasons

What if I win?

If you are one of the very few who manage to get picked to receive money from a philanthropic Twitter account, don’t think it’s all roses. To receive any money, you are required to jump through legal hoops before that money is deposited into your account.

“What legal hoops?”, you ask. Good question. You are required to agree to a long, stringent set of terms and conditions before you are awarded any money. These conditions allow this Twitter philanthropy account to do whatever they want with your win while restricting you. What document would I sign? You will need to read and sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) and return it to the team operating the philanthropic account before you can take possession of that $20 or whatever small amount they are willing to give you. This is the very definition of victimizing someone in need. Someone in desperate need of money would be willing to sign just about ANYTHING to get that “free” money.

Once you agree to their restrictive terms and conditions, they will send you that money via CashApp or whatever other agreed upon payment system. If you violate these terms, they will sue you.

This is not a no-strings-attached way to get money. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me to find that some of these “charity acts” might actually be loans which must be repaid at some point in the future. In other words, be very, very careful if you choose to attempt to get money out of these philanthropic accounts. They may screw you on the way in and on the way out… and perhaps even later in the future.

Twitter’s Response

Unfortunately, Twitter (the company) doesn’t monitor or manage any of these philanthropy accounts. They allow them to operate with impunity. Because it seems that these philanthropic accounts “appear” (it’s all about appearances) to be doing good for the community, Twitter (the company run by Jack Dorsey) turns a blind eye and allows this bad situation to continue and fester. Few people actually get anything good out of these accounts. Even more are getting scammed from the tweet replies claiming to also give away money for following and retweeting. Don’t fall for any tweet replies. They’re almost certainly a scam.

Essentially, Twitter is turning a blind eye to these accounts which, in fact, do not perform a “good service” for Twitter. In fact, there are likely more people being scammed out of their money than ever receive money from any Twitter philanthropy. On Twitter, it’s not okay to write about certain controversial topics, but it’s perfectly acceptable to take advantage of people in need and scam them out of even more money? Thanks for looking out for us, Jack!

Scams and Philanthropy

bollinger wine bottle on boat

As I stated earlier about Tweet replies in the article, let’s now understand how you can get scammed through fake philanthropy on Twitter. There’s actually more fake philanthropy going on Twitter than there is genuine philanthropy.

In fact, it’s very easy to get scammed out of money on Twitter. This specific scam isn’t what the top philanthropy accounts are using, however. Instead, they use the model described above, which is nearly as seedy. With that, let’s look at how fake philanthropy accounts on Twitter attempt to part you from your money so they can sip champagne on a beach.

This next philanthropy scam is bait and switch and it’s the primary way they scam you. How this one works is that you’ll see someone Tweet replying they’re willing to give you money and all they need is your CashApp tag sent to them over a direct message (DM). You then give it to them. Seems harmless enough, right?

The Scam Begins

Over the DM area, they’ll start by asking you a lot of seemingly personal questions. If you pass all of these probing questions, they’ll explain to you that their CashApp app is broken and that they can’t use it. They’ll tell you they need to switch to using PayPal. Here’s where the scam actually begins. Any philanthropy person who switches the payment method sets up a HUGE RED ūüö©. Don’t fall for this. If the person can’t use CashApp, which enticed you in, to send you the money, walk away. CashApp can be used by anyone and it can be set up quickly. Any excuse someone gives for not using CashApp is fake.

When they switch to using PayPal, they can then claim to need you to send them money to cover fees or other such nonsense to complete the PayPal cash transfer. In that goal, they’ll issue you an invoice to pay. This is the scam. First, PayPal doesn’t need money to complete a cash transfer. Anyone making this claim is scamming you. Second, you shouldn’t need to pay any money to get money. If they can legitimately pay you, they will pay you no strings attached. Third, remember that they roped you in by offering the use of CashApp, then inexplicably switched to PayPal (bait and switch).

Anyone who can legitimately pay you money can do so using CashApp. There is no need to switch to another service. You can read more about PayPal scams here, and there are plenty more just like this one.

Screenshots

To attempt to trick you further by making themselves seem legit, they will send over a screenshot showing that they paid someone else money. A screen shot is EASILY faked, let alone found on the Internet. There’s no way to verify that any screenshot they send you is in any way linked to them (or even legitimate). In other words, screenshots are not proof of anything, let alone of being charitable.

If the person is legitimate, they will send you the money without asking you for anything in return. If they ask for anything in return, it’s a scam.

Uncomfortable Questions

Other behaviors they might exhibit is asking a series of deep probing questions you might not feel comfortable answering. Specifically, question like what bank you are using, what credit card companies you have, and so on. That’s none of their business. If they’re willing to send you money under philanthropy, they don’t need any of this information. If they begin asking probing questions like social security numbers, birth dates, actual account numbers or any other deep personal information, this has the hallmark of scam all over it. Remind them that the CashApp tag is all they need to send over money. If they can’t do this simple one thing, then they’re not legitimate.

Philanthropy should be about the good in giving, not finding out as many personal details about a person as possible. If someone begins asking very deep diving personal questions about you, your location and your finances, walk away. Explain to them that they don’t need that information to be charitable. If their charity relies on this information, they can find someone else.

Chances are, the reason they are asking these personal questions is to not only scam you, but take the rest of your accounts for a ride.

The Dark Side of Twitter Philanthropy

photo of guy fawkes mask with red flower on top on hand

Yes, there is actually an extremely dark side to Twitter philanthropy which has now been exposed showing just how dark it can get. No, Twitter philanthropy is not all roses, as some adamantly claim.

For a moment, let’s suppose you do win the philanthropy lottery. Let me ask you this simple question. As a recipient of that supposed good will money, do you really want to accept that money not really knowing if someone behind that philanthropy account scammed another to give you that money?

Yeah, I wouldn’t want to either. Money can be helpful, but not at the cost of someone else being scammed out of it. Be careful and tread lightly when following any Twitter philanthropy accounts. Keep your guard up and watch out for people on Twitter claiming to be altrustic do-gooders. In these especially hard times, don’t fall for fake altruism. If you are really in need of money, head over to GoFundMe and plead your own case with your money raising efforts. The money you raise at GoFundMe will be yours without such underlying strings. If you’re putting your hand out towards someone else’s wallet, particularly on Twitter, expect the worst in people.

In fact, let me point you to this exposé article describing one particular philanthropy account on Twitter. This article is a bit disjointed of a read, but if you can follow it, you will better understand this very dark and seedy side of Twitter Philanthropy in excruciating detail.

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Paypal: Don’t trust them with your checking account!

Posted in banking, best practices, scam, scams by commorancy on April 1, 2009

Paypal has been in business for how many years now? ¬†Yet, they still can’t manage to find a way to verify a person without using a bank account? ¬†Since day 1 of Paypal, I’ve been sternly opposed to giving my checking account routing information to Paypal. ¬†Why? ¬†It’s very simple. ¬†I don’t trust them. ¬†I never have. ¬†I never will.

Why you should never give out bank account + routing information to anyone!

Let me first say that when I discuss ‘routing numbers’, this means a combination of both your account and your routing number. Clearly, you wouldn’t just give out only a routing number as that’s not useful. It is only useful when in combination with an account number.

When you give someone a signed check, you implicitly give them your routing information. ¬†That’s a danger when you write a check to a company. ¬†The protection, of course, is that you’ve given them a physical paper check for a specific amount and you know exactly how much that check was. ¬† So, when the check number arrives at the bank and drafts that amount of money from your account, it was expected. ¬†They can’t draw more than the amount the check was written.

Routing numbers, on the other hand, are effectively blank checks. ¬†When you give a company your routing number, you are handing them a signed blank check. ¬†That’s because you’ve agreed to allow them blanket access to your checking account. ¬†That company can then debit any amount of money from your account they see fit without so much as a thank you. ¬† Because Paypal uses EFT (electronic fund transfers) in the form of ACH (automatic clearing house), they can debit your account up to the maximum amount of funds in your account. ¬†This means, they can overdraw your account and completely drain your funds. ¬†ACH/EFT offers no liabilities to the consumer whether accidental or intentional. ¬†Because you gave that company explicit approval to debit your account at will, there are no liabilities for any inappropriate transactions. ¬†That’s left between you and Paypal to resolve. ¬†The bank will usually not become involved. ¬†When banks do become involved, the best they can do is tell you when it happened. You can try to ask your bank for additional help, but they will most likely point you to Paypal for resolution. ¬†The reason is simple, you agreed to give Paypal access to your account up front.

Worse, if the company that overdrafted your account chooses to not give you the money back, then you may be out of luck.  At that point, you better seek a lawyer, assuming you have any money left to pay them.

Paypal and Checking Accounts

Paypal does not need a checking account to verify you. ¬†They just tell you they do because that’s the way they have always worked it. ¬†This verification process can easily be done with a credit card charge that you input later to validate that you receive the bill for the card. ¬†Paypal simply wants to have unfettered access to your checking account. ¬†Frankly, it’s a huge liability for you. ¬†It’s also a huge liability for Paypal to store this information. ¬†One hacker in their system and they could have a field day with your money.

Credit Cards and Fraud

Paypal is well aware of the fraud issues with credit cards.  They are also well aware of chargebacks, merchant liabilities and fees associated with these processes.  To avoid them, they prefer unlimited access to your checking account that hold no such penalties or liabilities.  Because the consumer has no recourse over inadvertant transactions, Paypal has the upper hand.  This is why Paypal will not verify you with only a credit card.  Can they validate based on only a credit card, yes.  They simply choose not to.

Credit cards have long established liability rules that prevent fraud occuring from both rip-off artists and from merchants alike.  Unfortunately, there are no such rules for ACH.

Consumer Protection from Businesses

Whenever a company asks you to give them routing information from your checking account, tell them, “No!”. ¬† Not only should you tell them “no”, you should explain exactly why. ¬†Tell them that you don’t trust them with that level of access to your account.

Should you continue to do business with Paypal? ¬†That’s entirely up to you. ¬†But, I still do not have a verified account with Paypal because I simply will not give them the routing information from my checking or savings account. ¬†I simply do not trust ANY company enough with that information. ¬†Remember, Paypal is not a bank. ¬†Thus, it does not fall under any banking rules, liabilities or any federal insurance. ¬†In fact, who knows what insurance Paypal even carries? ¬†So, whatever Paypal does, you’re at their mercy to do it right. ¬†If they don’t, you have to fight with them to get your money back. ¬†The bank won’t help you.

But, I need to give out my routing number…

Here’s another option. ¬†It’s not optimal, but it works. ¬†Simply, open a second checking account. By setting up a checking account specifically and solely to be used with Paypal and merchants, you can limit your financial liability. ¬†You can then link another account to this new account for transferring in money only, but be sure NOT to link the new checking account to any overdraft protection on any other accounts. ¬†So, if Paypal overdraws your account inadvertantly, they won’t get any more money than what you have specifically placed in there. ¬†So, if you want to buy a $250 appliance, only transfer in $250 for just that appliance.

The problem with this technique is that banks sometime require minimums to open an account and minimums to keep it open. ¬†So, you may have to leave $1000 (or some other arbitrary amount of money) to prevent accrual of monthly fees or account closure. ¬†You’ll need to contact your bank for details.

While this does work, it’s not optimal by any stretch. ¬† It requires you to be extra cautious with how you use that account. ¬†You have to be diligent to place the money in there when you need it. ¬†And, you need to remember that transfers of money into the account are not always instanteous. ¬†So, you may have to transfer your money in the day before you intend to purchase to ensure the money is there to cover the transaction.

What if I’m a Merchant?

For merchants who want to get paid for products they sell, I understand the issue here with ACH/EFT. ¬†Again, in this instance, I would set up a separate checking or savings account solely for Paypal use. ¬†Only give this account to Paypal so that when you receive payments, you can transfer them out of that account and to your ‘regular’ account immediately. ¬†This way, if Paypal decides to debit you for any reason, the money won’t be there.

Overdrawn Accounts

If Paypal overdraws your account for any reason, don’t expect them to pay you back for insufficient fund fees. ¬†You will have to deal with these fees on top of the inappropriate debiting from Paypal. ¬†You will then have to argue with Paypal to get your money back and your bank fees reimbursed. ¬†But, good luck with both of those processes.

Spending Limits

If you choose not to give your routing information to Paypal, Paypal arbitrarily limits how much money you can send to an individual when you buy merchandise. ¬† For this silly reason alone, this is enough to tell Paypal to take a hike. ¬†There are plenty of ways to buy merchandise from merchants on the Internet. ¬†In fact, when a merchant is reputable enough, they will set up their own merchant account with a bank and let you pay the merchant directly. ¬†You should also feel comforted knowing that when you send a payment to a merchant, not through Paypal, you have the full card protections behind your transaction. ¬†When you purchase through Paypal, your Paypal account agreement may prevent you from using some of your card’s built-in protections… such as a chargeback.

Credit Cards

For all of these reasons above combined with card liability limits, fraud protection and other protections that come built-in with the Visa, Mastercard and Amex logos, credit cards protect a whole lot more than ACH/EFT.  Cards limit your exposure to ID theft and they also limit your liability if someone steals your card and then, for example, buys a new car with it.

For payments, Paypal could choose to issue checks instead of requiring ACH/EFT.   But, they have never wanted to go this route for payments.  Instead, Paypal forces you to verify your Paypal account by giving them a routing number from your checking account.  As I have said, this is not necessary and is a huge liability.

If you want to protect your money in your bank account from unauthorized transactions, you should not give Paypal (or any company) access to your checking account via routing numbers.  Instead you should insist on the protections that credit cards offer.  Credit cards are more than sufficient for anything that Paypal would need (at least for paying for merchandise).  For merchants, you will need to determine what works best for you.

[UPDATE: 6/27/2012]

Paypal now has a new wrinkle in its verification process. ¬†When attempting to verify a checking account and your bank has a web portal (i.e., Wells Fargo), they will ask for the login and password to your bank’s web portal to do an ‘immediate’ verification. Don’t do it! Don’t give it to them. Paypal says they won’t store the credentials, but with all of the stolen information from various sites, do not trust ANY site with your bank’s web portal login and password. This should really be common sense, but maybe it isn’t. With that said, if you must verify a bank account with Paypal, do it the old fashioned method by letting Paypal make two small sized deposits. ¬†First, it makes Paypal give you about 25 cents. Second, you’re not giving out your bank’s web portal password to some random third party.

As much as I rant above about giving out routing numbers and blank checks, it’s far worse to give out your bank’s web portal login and password information. Do not do either if you can help it. However, if you can manage to set up a separate one-sided transfer system into a free savings or checking account for Paypal payments and transfers, then by all means set that up. ¬†Do not give Paypal access to your primary checking account with full access your bank account. Also, make sure that you have disabled overdraft protections on any accounts you give Paypal so that if they reach in and grab money out, when the account hits $0 it doesn’t go any further. ¬†You don’t want to be mopping up a mess of bad debits and at the same time having to pay interest payments on those bad debits. ¬†Paypal is not a bank and they’re not likely to reimburse you for any bad transactions leading to overdraft fees or interest accrued. So, avoid the issue and prevent Paypal from doing this damage in the first place.

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