CLEVELAND — Loved ones of Taylor Ceepo are ramping up efforts and working with law enforcement to warn the public about fake fundraising pages being created using the 22-year-old’s name.
The pages started popping up soon after Taylor passed away while running the Cleveland half marathon Sunday.
Two “campaigns” posted on GoGetFunding.com used real photos of Taylor and actual names of some Ceepo family members.
They claimed to be collecting for funeral expenses, but a very close family friend, Stacey Kouzelos told FOX 8 that all of the pages are fraudulent.
“The fact that someone out there could even think of taking advantage of someone like that it’s heartbreaking and it’s sickening,” said Kouzelos.
On Wednesday, a spokesperson for GoGetFunding responded to FOX 8’s requests for information and said that the campaign and user had been “deleted and banned.”
They also said they work with investigators and would be “providing data or exhibits for prosecution.”
But even as those pages came down, another one popped up, this time on GoFundMe. A woman in New Jersey is claiming that she’s collecting funds for Ceepo’s funeral too.
Law enforcement confirmed that they are looking into the matter and that the perpetrators could possibly face charges.
“Legally it’s a form of fraud. Often this is criminal conduct that’s highly organized by groups that are doing many other nefarious things that occur on the internet,” said Brian Ray, Law Professor and Dir. of Cyber Security and Privacy Protection at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.
Ray said it can sometimes be difficult to stop the scammers because they are continually changing their online identities and footprint, however it’s not impossible. And, law enforcement has made great strides in recent years going after the scammers, shutting them down and prosecuting.
But prevention is always best, so Professor Ray said it’s imperative people do their research, check with family members or verified sources before sending a payment.
“I mean it’s terrible, it’s one of the worst things to exploit someones grief after a tragedy like that,“ said Ray.
Currently the only legitimate request by the Ceepo family is that in lieu of flowers, people donate to Akron Children’s Hospital in Taylor’s name. Friends say, anything else you see is fake.