Fraud in Medical Crowdfunding: A Typology of Publicized Cases and Policy Recommendations

Zenone M., Snyder J.
Academic Journal
Policy & Internet
11(2): 215-234
January 2019


Medical crowdfunding is an increasingly popular means of leveraging social networks to raise money for health-related expenses. While providing crucial access to care for many, it is also accompanied by increased risks of fraudulent activity. While many such cases of fraud have been publicized by the news media, and research articles mention the potential for increased risk of fraud, little is known about the types of fraud that occur within medical crowdfunding.

This article develops of a typology of fraud cases described in the news media by retrieving 52 cases of medical crowdfunding fraud through a search of news media and an online aggregator of crowdfunding fraud. We identified the following categories of fraud: faking/exaggerating one's own illness (n = 29), faking/exaggerating another's illness (n = 7), impersonation (n = 8), and misapplication of funds (n = 8). Building on these findings, we identify several limitations to existing anti fraud policies, and offer five policy recommendations to identify instances of medical crowdfunding fraud, prevent such fraud, and offer better outcomes to its victims