Maybe some of you have heard about this, maybe some of you haven't. There was a thing going around the net about a woman whose cat was set on fire and her need for donations to pay the $5000 vet bill. Well, I guess she came on later and said it was all an experiment and the cat was never set on fire. I forget where I first heard about this story, but it may have been on 8-bit Theater.
Looking more into the user's livejournal page it looks like she is 22 years old. I was figuring she may be a teenager before I looked at the profile given how absolutely stupid doing this was. I have no clue how much money she received through Paypal (which she is supposedly refunding), but I am guessing she made well over $5000. She says she was going to donate the money, but given that this was a scam that she probably wasn't going to own up to if it wasn't for some investigative digging by one of her friends chances are she was going to keep the money. The best intentions are not always paved with gold. This whole thing got me to thinking about another story like this from my online past.
I was a moderator over on Anime on DVD for quite a while. I don't remember what year it was, maybe 2001 or 2002, but we got word that the woman who had been working on this art print that was going to be sold to users had died in a terrible car accident with her husband. Her sister contacted Chris Beveridge (the owner of AoD) and told him that she was going to get the art prints to everyone and to just give her some time. Months later none of the buyers had heard anything nor had Chris (I was not a buyer of the art piece btw).
One of the users contacted Chris saying they swore they saw the woman in the Seattle area and that she may not be dead. Some users in the forum decided they were going to do some investigation and I also joined in with them. We checked the Seattle papers (this happened around Seattle) during the time the fatal accident happened and never saw any obituary nor any story on a fatal accident. We went so far as to call and try to corroborate the story.
One of the users was just about to hire a Private Investigator when the woman came back onto the forum and said that she faked her death in order to get out of the hole she was in. As the story goes the art print she was making had been a copy of a Japanese artist's print and she had gone through the motions of getting copyright authorization. From what I understand the price was quite large and she couldn't pay it and her personal debt kept growing and growing, so she left the people that had pre-ordered high and dry. She was the one that called Chris pretending to be her sister. She came back saying she would refund everyone their money but as far as I know she has not paid them back to this day. Many people on the forum just kind of brushed it off, but the buyers and myself (remember, I didn't buy, but I did a lot of work looking for her) will probably carry a grudge for a long time. When she came back I really railed against her and could never really believe anything she said. I no longer frequent AoD as much as I used to, so I don't know if she is still around or if the money was ever paid back. If the money was paid back my grudge would probably be gone simply because she swindled a lot of money off of people.
Much like the cat story, there was a far better way to go about it than she took. Things like this make you very apprehensive about believing any sort of tragedy told on the internet. It's the nature of the beast I suppose, but at some point someone won't be crying wolf and people may not be there to pull them out of a rut. That will be a sad day, but because of the actions of a few people the ones that really need help may not get it.
I'm going to guess the cat lady has a few less friends today after this and I certainly hope it was worth it to her in the end because she may never get those friends back and she'll remember this "experiment" for the rest of her life.