The safety of online fundraising is in the spotlight after charges were laid against a woman alleged to have raised more than $15,000 for fictional cancer treatment.

Police have charged a 23-year-old woman who fundraised on donation website Givealittle, claiming to have cancer. Court charge sheets allege she obtained $15,000 by deception.

She was granted name suppression in the Auckland District Court yesterday.

The woman faces three charges of obtaining pecuniary advantage totalling more than $15,000 by deception and a fourth charge of obtaining a lease of a car by deception.


Her lawyer Alex Steadman said his client was in hospital for "holistic" health problems and argued publication of her name and identifying details would be "counter-therapeutic".

Givealittle founder and services manager Nathalie Whitaker said this was the first time a Givealittle page had been at the centre of a police investigation.

Ms Whitaker said the website didn't authenticate every page that was set up and relied on the public to alert them to any concerns.

"Any member of the public is able to anonymously trigger our reporting process if they have concerns, and it's at that point we will undertake an internal review," she said.

"It's very rare for us to receive a report from the public on the basis of authenticity or the idea that someone is misrepresenting their needs for fundraising."

She said when a page is set up, three independent donations from individuals are required before it's visible through a browse or search of the website.

Ms Whitaker said she would not comment on the specifics of the case before the courts, however she was pleased with the transparency Givealittle has been able to provide the case. "We're able to trace all the money directly back to donors." She said Givealittle would help facilitate the return of money donated if the court decided reparations were in order.

Martin Cocker of NetSafe advised people wanting to give to charities to stay away from the online causes and give to an established charity.


"Consider one of the reputable charities you know do good work in that space."

The woman at the centre of the fraud case is due to reappear in court in two weeks.

Giving a little adds up to a lot
• More than $14m donated overall since December 2008
• $53.62 average donation last month
• 25,487 donations made in September
• $269,934 for Lucy Knight, the most for one cause.
$55,231 donated to Nicky Hager's legal fees.