She May Have Cancer, But You’re Not Helping

stroller 150x150 She May Have Cancer, But Youre Not HelpingThis morning in my Facebook notifications there were three that intrigued me:

  • An inspiring video of an Iraq War veteran who used yoga to walk again, although doctors told him he never would.
  • An appeal from The Animal Rescue Site, wanting me to “Like” and “Share” to raise money for needy dogs and cats.
  • And a picture of a sad-eyed bald little girl in a hospital bed, clutching a stuffed duck. The caption said, “She has cancer. Facebook will donate one dollar for every Share, hit now.”

You know, I almost clicked on that last one. I really did. But there was a misspelling in the appeal. I hesitated. Guess what—it’s a scam. According to several hoax-debunking websites, photos like this are of real children, whose parents are usually very upset about them being circulated by scammers.

The Bulldog Estate blog says shares of these photos can reach 600,000 in just a few days, or even hours. Unfortunately, all this does is make the families of sick children feel even worse. It also wastes your time and can open you up to a direct donation scam.

Facebook does not donate for clicking “like” or “share.” To date, according to www.thatsnonsense.com, “no hospital, charity, organization or Facebook has ever conditioned lifesaving operations, medicine or donations based on the number of times a photo, message or email is shared. Any [claim] to the contrary is just a sick hoax…”

The “sick child” appeal scam is as old as chain letters—and the photos are old too. At least one has been circulating since 2007, according to Snopes. The photo is of a Vietnamese orphan who was adopted by an American family. The “cancerous mass” in the photo is merely a hemangioma, or abnormal build-up of blood vessels, which has since been removed.

Report a scam photograph to FB at its source by selecting “spam or scam” on the pulldown menu. Alert your friends who have shared or posted the photo on their walls. And remember, you can always find legitimate child illness charities and their track records at www.bbb.org.

But WAIT. What about that Animal Rescue Site wanting me to click? Is that a scam too? No. Why not?

1)       The message is from a trusted, known, verifiable source.

2)       Many trustworthy scam-busting sites have confirmed it’s TRUE

3)       Corporate sponsors.

Just like www.freerice.com, which really does donate rice to the Third World with the help of advertisers, corporations pay the animal rescue site to appear on its page. (It’s kind of like reading a free newspaper supported by ads. The more “likes” and “shares” the website can show to potential advertisers, the more sales they generate–because companies want to get out in front of large numbers of people.) In addition, at the Animal Rescue Site Store, a portion of every purchase is donated to the site’s charitable partners.

I realize it can be tricky to tell the difference between a good cause and a scam. If you’re not sure, go to a trusted source to find out. If you can’t be sure, don’t share. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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About Holly Doering

Holly Doering has worked for the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Washington, North Idaho, and Montana for half a decade. Her areas of expertise include the CORE Values Program (Character, Optimism, Respect, Ethics) for Teens and Charity Review as well as writing and editing. Prior to that, she has written for two newspapers, a local magazine, and taught English at the community college. She is the proud author of a short story in ZYZZYVA literary magazine and has had good luck publishing lots of poetry. Each year she rolls up her sleeves and wades into the autumn Nanowrimo writing madness and has several unfinished novels to her credit.