Published in El Pais, 20 November 2018.
Often the internet provides us with opportunities that are too good to be true for the simple reason that it usually is. These scams either offer quick and easy money as a reward for offering up a small sum in advance or products at a very steep discount. Fortunately for most, common sense prevents us from falling for these schemes and these offers are little more than an annoyance rather than a danger. One scam that may work more than others however are charitable scams as is evident in the homeless go fund me scam that recently came to light.
Last year newspapers throughout the world reported on a feel-good story that would make even the iciest hearts melt. A woman was stuck on the road with no gas and no money to pay for it. A homeless veteran gave her his last $20 to help her out and asked for nothing in return. Later this woman and her boyfriend tracked him down, paid him back and set up a fundraising campaign on the popular website go fund me to help raise money for this generous man, one that raised over $400,000. A few months later the story turned sad as the man accused the couple of spending the money themselves which prompted an investigation, and on Thursday came the shocking truth, the whole story was a lie and the homeless man was in on it. The scariest thing about this is that they had fooled everyone and had they not squabbled over how to split the money they likely would have gotten away with it.
What makes these scams more believable? Every single person who gave to this cause expected nothing in return, no name brand product or cash reward. They simply thought they were doing a good deed and would continue to do so had this new information not come to light. These types of scams are nothing new of course as people have long been trying to take advantage of people’s generosity but with crowd funding sites popping up everywhere it can be easy to trick people all over the world.
This type of story will surely make people more skeptical now, and who can blame them but there is no need to stop contributions entirely if you consider yourself a charitable person. What you should be doing however is going back to the basics in terms of giving. Go back to charities that have been trusted for years where you can feel confident the money is in the right hands and avoid these fundraiser pages where it can be difficult or even impossible to wonder where the money is going. This story is sad true, but if we go back to the basics we can continue to do good without the skepticism.