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Happy New Year!!!
I love January 1st. There's something about shutting the door on the previous year and letting go of the past that makes this day fantabulous. I don't bother with resolutions anymore because I never stick to the hard ones and the easy ones are things I should be doing daily anyway (avoiding drama, eating better, and counting my blessings). Now that we have dogs and a cat, we don't make big New Year's Eve plans beyond a grocery run for snacks and an early dinner at Playa Bonita.
We're simple people.
Well, last night, my simple New Year's Eve was tainted by an email exchange from someone who wanted me to either donate to her $300 fundraiser or share her fundraiser on my Facebook page with over 20,000 followers.
RED FLAG – So, is this a scam or is it legit? A day later and I still don't know, but what I do know is that I wasn't giving this stranger any money nor was I going to share her fundraiser after the messages I received from her.
But, I'll confess, that I was tempted. This is a person playing up my love of dogs who sent me a message during the holiday season that says that she's about to be homeless and she'll lose her dogs. That's terrifying. I look around the room now, as I type, and I'm surrounded by five sleeping dogs. I love them so much and I wouldn't know what I would do if I had to surrender them to a shelter.
So, yeah, I empathized big time, but I didn't know this person. Was I being too suspicious? Should I have helped?
I HAVE A FUNDRAISER ON MY PAGE TO HELP ME PLEASE AND WITHOUT IT I CANT KEEP MY DOGSFacebook User
I'm sorry for what you are experiencing. After Christmas, I don't have spare funds to donate. You are your dogs are in my thoughts and prayers.Me
I have been following you for a long time and was just hoping you could help.Facebook User
I can empathize with your current predicament, especially after the holidays. Unfortunately, I'm not in a position to help at this time.Me
A Call for Help or Extortion?
I passed my phone over to my boyfriend, a retired deputy who has years of experience dealing with fraud, and he said: “Do Not send her money. This is a scam.” What tipped him off was the lack of information on your Facebook profile and the lack of details on the fundraiser – there wasn't an explanation for the fundraiser beyond she's having a tough time financially.
But I still wasn't convinced.
If I were about to be homeless, I would call one of my friends. At that moment, I realized that I have several friends who would be happy to help me out – maybe she doesn't have friends who can help her out. Maybe she's in a tough situation with a boyfriend, husband, girlfriend, or wife. Maybe she lost her job and she's running out of money.
Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.
I can come up with reasonable excuses all day long and shares several of them with my boyfriend as we ate dinner. Maybe I should help. Maybe I should share her fundraiser on my personal profile with a comment that this is a person I don't know.
And then the final message came through and I realized that I was dealing with someone who was either a scammer or dealing with something that a fundraiser wouldn't solve.
This may be my final goodbye. I cant deal losing my dogs and being homeless. I would rather be dead.Facebook User
My boyfriend read her comments and called it extortion. My friend, Scott, suggested seeing where she lived and calling the police since she threatened to harm herself (she doesn't have location information on her profile).
She then took our private discussion public and began commenting on my Facebook page. That was when I banned her from my page and blocked her on Facebook. My concern was that she'd become irate because I wouldn't give her money or share her fundraiser.
I shared what happened on my personal profile and learned that this isn't new. Several people said that they've had people threaten suicide as a way to extort money. What???? This is a thing???
When Someone Threatens Suicide
As I said, I still don't know if this is legit or not. When I woke up this morning, I checked Facebook out of concern and saw that she met her $300 goal and raised the fundraiser to $600. This doesn't mean that it's a scam, though. Which is why I didn't report the fundraiser. If this woman is truly in trouble, I don't want to take away the money she's raised.
But back to the suicide. If through a stroke of bad luck I have this experience again, I will do the following:
- I will not give anyone money.
- I will not share their fundraiser.
- I will send the person the number to the Suidice Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
- I will report the profile to Facebook
Should I Warn People?
I don't know. I kind of did when I posted on my profile, but I didn't go any further. Again, I don't know if this is really a scam. So beyond posting about it on my personal profile, I decided to let it go.
And then write a blog post about the experience.
Social Media and Mental Health
The beauty of social media is that we can connect with like-minded people from all around the world. I've met most of my best friends through social media – these are people who have become my family. And, fortunately, most of these people I interact with in real life; not just online.
One thing that I often forget is many people don't have a lot going on outside of social media. We log onto Facebook or Instagram and we see these happy lives and forget that the people we follow have shit days too; some more than others.
I live with anxiety and depression and I'm not alone. Thankfully, I have a kick-ass day job that provides amazing benefits. Five plus years in therapy helped me to identify my triggers and explore ways to maneuver through life without losing my mind or my temper when I'm stressed or upset. Not everyone has those tools and add in social media where we can find empathy, acquiescence, and, in some cases, money, we can find ourselves in uncomfortable conversations.
So, maybe this person is also suffering from a form of anxiety and depression that made it so easy for her to threaten suicide.
Why Do I Doubt Myself?
Today, I've spoken with a few of my friends about this situation and not one single person told me that this was a person who needed financial help. Every person labeled her as manipulative, a scam artist, and stated that she obviously needs help.
Why didn't I think that initially? I felt uncomfortable with the conversation, but every time I asked myself if this was a scam, I felt guilty.
So when I checked in on her today and saw that her fundraiser goal of $300 had been met and increased to $600, I didn't feel guilty anymore. She obviously doesn't need my help and it's pretty arrogant of me to feel that my refusal to donate and share her fundraiser would result in her losing her home, her dogs, or taking her life.
Suicide is a serious threat. As a person who has lived with anxiety and depression for decades, I don't feel comfortable with how easily we, as a society, threaten suicide on social media. Is this a call for help? A call for attention? I don't know. So, my lesson on the last day of 2019 is that I'm only responsible for me. What others choose to do isn't my business; I'm not taking that on.