Two families from Guizhou province in southwest China who were hit with large medical bills were approached by “volunteers” from a crowdfunding site promising to raise funds from citizens sympathetic to their plight – only for the cash to reportedly vanish.

Xiyu crowdfunding, which was developed last year by a Beijing-registered e-commerce company named Maixiang on Tencent’s WeChat, aims to assist needy patients or their families pay off their medical bills by securing donations from others on the Internet using big data and artificial intelligence, according to the company.

But the supposed crowdfunding site is under fire after two citizens told how they were approached by volunteers from the site to set up pages, which they later could not access – while donations were not transferred to their bank accounts as promised, the Paper reported.

A man surnamed He, who was diagnosed with epidermis skin cancer and resides in The Second People Hospital Guizhou, told a reporter he was first approached by a volunteer from Xiyu crowdfunding last month. The man instructed him how to set up a page in a bid to collect enough online donations to pay his medical expenses.

Mr He said he managed to earn around 1,000 Chinese yuan a month by doing several short-term jobs, and he also hoped that generous donations from netizens could help pay off his heavy medical bills.

On August 8, when He’s individual page showed 6,046 Chinese yuan – a sum that was good enough for him to pay off some debts, he asked for help from the same volunteer who filed his identity and bank account details for money transfers. He was promised things would be completed in five days, but that never happened. He wasn’t able to contact the volunteer or his donation page since last Friday, August 16.

Meanwhile, a father surnamed Wang, whose two sons, aged 7 and 3, sustained serious gasoline burns and were sent to Guiyang Burn Hospital for treatment, was also approached by a volunteer for Xiyu crowdfunding.

As of August 6, donations had reached 11,000 Chinese yuan, which would have been vital to help settle his medical fees. But he was not to obtain any funds by August 15 when his sons were discharged. He had to spend all the family’s home savings.

The father desperately called the volunteer, who was reportedly out of reach, and his page was said to have been inaccessible.

The reporter then found that the developer of the crowdfunding site had claimed to have “abnormal business operations” under the National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System.

On August 16, the company replied to inquiries by media outlets, claiming there were problems in their account with Tencent that caused individual donation pages to become inaccessible. It said users should go directly to their webpage on http://www.xiyuchou.com/ to their sites, to seek help from the customer services or to process donation transfers.

All donation requests made previously, for example, the two made by He and Wang, should have been available in their accounts by Sunday August 18, the company claimed.

However, He had yet to receive any funds by Monday.

The webpage was also reportedly unstable and sometimes said it could not find the report requested.