Maybe it’s just me being a cynic, but there is something about this new wave of crowd-funding that doesn’t quite sit right with me. While I have no doubt that the majority of people are raising money for a good and legitimate cause, stories like this one help sow a seed of doubt in my mind.
If you’ve been on the internet lately, you will more than likely have come across a GoFundMe appeal from someone on your social media timeline. Whether they’re running the marathon or simply trying to raise the funds for a holiday, the motive behind this funding can vary from case-to-case. However, while a lot of people are happy to lend a hand and send over some cash, it’s impossible to know where it actually going.
Sadly, the rise in this method of money-raising has seen a rise in people taking advantage of the generosity of others.
When Hanna Dickenson from Melbourne, Australia, told her friends and family that she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, they were naturally devastated. At just 19-years-old, Hannah claimed that she only had a matter of weeks to live and appealed to anyone she could to help fund her overseas treatment in New Zealand and Thailand. According to the teenager, the treatment could prolong – or even save – her life.
Obviously keen to see her return to good health, those close to Hanna set about raising the money for her, with them pulling together to raise AUD $42,000 ($32,000) altogether.
However, while the fundraising for Hanna was done in good-faith, the same can’t be said for her motives. In reality, Hanna wasn’t ill at all. Instead, she had plotted a plan in order to scam her loved ones out of a lot of cash to run her party lifestyle.
After receiving the money, Hanna continued her life of drinking, partying and extravagant holidays. However, much to her detriment, she wasn’t exactly sly about it. After continuously posting images of her escapades on social media, Hanna was caught out by one of the men who had donated money to her cause.
“I started looking into it, doing my homework,” Hanna’s neighbour Nathan Cue, who had donated AU $20,000, said. “I spent a fair bit of time and sussing things out, and yeah, 100 percent scammed. So that’s when I took it to the police,” he told Australian TV programme A Current Affair.
Hanna, who is now 24, recently appeared in court and has been charged with seven counts of obtaining property by deception. She has been sentenced to three months in prison and 150 hours of a community service. She has also been sentenced to have treatment for her mental health issues and substance abuse.
Speaking about the case, Magistrate David Starvaggi described Hanna’s actions as “despicable.” According to the judge, she had “engaged in conduct that tears at the very heartstrings of human nature”.
“People’s desire to assist and social trust has been breached. These are people who worked hard and dug into their own pockets.”
So, while I appreciate the generosity of those who give money to GoFundMe’s, it’s always important to check where the money is going. Sadly, there are quite a few rotten people out there.