A retired 72-year-old man wanted to donate money on a GoFundMe page to help a woman he’s never met, but he mistakenly donated way more than intended
Jim Houck clicked on a GoFundMe page for a woman who lives more than 1,500 miles away from him. He planned to donate $15 to her, instead, he somehow donated $15,787.
“My first thought was, ‘This didn’t happen,’ ” he said of the moment he realized his mistake a few days after making the donation. “Then it was, ‘How could this possibly happen?’ ”
Jim’s donation was to Isata Jalloh (pictured above), a woman who was unfairly fired from her job pushing wheelchairs at Dulles International Airport because she was suspected of asking for a tip. After getting fired, she worried about how she was going to pay her rent at an apartment in Herndon, Virginia, and also send money to her children in Sierra Leone. Jim took pity on her and decided to help out.
But when he noticed he had donated more than intended, he contacted GoFundMe’s customer reps, who are called the Customer Happiness Team, and a representative replied, telling him that: “As for the $15,787 donation, it’s not currently available in our system to refund right away.”
She then listed his three options: “1: You can reach out to the campaign organizer to see if they can refund you directly . . . 2: You may be able to contact your bank or credit card company to dispute the charge for your donation . . . 3: I can personally reach out to the campaign organizer and issue the refund for you as soon as they reply with their confirmation.”
Jim tried all three options. He emailed Isata Jalloh and hoped she would understand and give his money back. He contacted his credit card company, which informed him that he could only dispute the charges once they cleared, and so he waited a few days until they did. He also asked the customer services rep named “Mary” to send an email. Then days passed, and he heard nothing. He sent another email to the company to see whether there were any updates, but there weren’t.
It took a long process because Isata didn’t have a computer and the GoFundMe account was set up by people who wanted to help her, but after days of going back and forth, the people who created the GoFundMe for Isata sifted through over 800 mails and finally found Jim’s donation. Isata, who had made over $45,000 decided immediately that she wanted to return his money.
A spokesperson for GoFundMe, in an email, said mistakes with donations are “a rare occurrence but can happen.”
“This is an extremely rare situation,” the spokesperson said of the $15,787 situation, “and if a mistake, big or small, does occur, the donor will usually recognize it quickly and reach out to our Happiness team for assistance. We are working with the donor and the beneficiary to correct this issue and get the donor his money back.”
In recent days, Jim said he has heard directly from the people helping Isata and he expects to soon receive a check with a large portion of the funds.