A bombshell investigation has revealed former US President Donald Trump's re-election campaign allegedly tricked supporters into making recurring donations, which drained some donors' bank accounts dry.
The New York Times recently reviewed the Federal Election Commission's filings from election campaigns, along with bank accounts and donation-processing sites they used.
The newspaper also talked to dozens of Trump supporters and donors, as well as campaign officials and campaign finance experts.
The results of the investigation were published in an article on Saturday, which revealed the Trump campaign swindled donors to "keep Donald Trump's struggling campaign afloat".
One cancer patient Stacey Blatt said he donated everything he could - US$500 - last September.
But the next day, the campaign withdrew another $500 from his bank account, then $500 the next week and every week through until mid-October when Blatt's bank account had been depleted and frozen.
"It felt like it was a scam," Blatt's brother Russell said.
The investigation found the campaign had added a pre-ticked box to the online donation form.
"Facing a cash crunch and getting badly outspent by the Democrats, the campaign had begun last September to set up recurring donations by default for online donors, for every week until the election. Contributors had to wade through a fine-print disclaimer and manually uncheck a box to opt-out," the Times reported.
"As the election neared, the Trump team made that disclaimer increasingly opaque. It introduced a second pre-checked box, known internally as a 'money bomb', that doubled a person's contribution. Eventually, its solicitations featured lines of text in bold and capital letters that overwhelmed the opt-out language."
The New York Times reported banks and credit card companies were inundated with complaints of fraud as supporters realised the mistake.
Ultimately, the campaign was forced to issue about US$120 million ($173 million) worth of refunds, although by then, the money had already served its purpose - basically an interest-free loan.
The claims shocked some US politicians, journalists and social media users.
"Jaw-dropping," one person commented.
"God, this is terrible," another wrote.
"Sleazy beyond belief."
The campaign has not responded to the claims so far.