People are often the most easily scammed when they feel empathy for another person. This is why embarrassing, fake "charity" efforts like Kony 2012 frequently manage to make out quite well before their scam-like nature gets outed.
Sadly enough, Kony 2012 might not be the only fundraising effort to use peoples' empathy for venal purposes this year. There have been early warning signs that the man behind the fundraiser to get abused bus monitor Karen Klein a vacation (which has currently raked in over $300,000) may be running such a scam. The evidence is too thin to condemn him yet, and indeed, it may all be an innocent misunderstanding, but if this story from the Atlantic is any guide, questions should be asked:
Since we reported on bullied bus monitor Karen Klein's exposure to the best and worst of humanity yesterday afternoon, people have donated more than $150,000 in her honor--a number we expect to only grow thanks to Klein's morning show rounds today. But it now looks like her white knight is trying to cash on Klein's viral fame.
Max Sidorov a.k.a. Reddit user heavyballsareheavy a.k.a the good Ukrainian Samaritan who set up the donation fund for the bullied Klein now has his own donation page with about $1,300 in the bank at the moment. He didn't start the appeal himself, but he's certainly embraced his own pledge drive by (with shades of those Invisible Children Kony kids) promoting a diet book he wrote.
Here's the post that Sidorov originally put up:
Now, to be fair to Sidorov, he did later retract this bit of self-promotion:
The fundraising page associated with him has also been deleted.
Nevertheless, this little hiccup raises questions - troubling ones, given the titanic amount of money flowing toward helping Karen Klein. For instance, just how is Sidorov going to transfer all this money to her? What assurance do we have that he will? What could Klein do if he didn't? The list goes on and on and on.
Fortunately, users have already asked those questions. The International Business Times reports:
For the most part, the Max Sidorov fund-raising effort is being applauded by indiegogo users. But one user said they believe giving money to Sidorov is inappropriate.
"I'm glad you've given [Klein] full control of the money, that was the right thing to do, and I hope you do well financially out of this as well through media appearances etc. but I wholeheartedly disagree with you promoting your book on her page," Indiegogo user Philip wrote.
It's still too early to tell what Sidorov will do with the funds raised for him. It's up to him to see how this plays out. Will he use the money to benefit others like Klein or helped fund anti-bullying causes, or will he splurge on himself?
All valid questions. With any luck, Max Sidorov will prove to actually be a good Samaritan and not just another bullying predator.