These are the stories that can make you feel grim about humanity: A 21-year-old from Long Island, Brittany Ozarowski, is accused of faking bone and brain cancer in order to scam donations to feed her heroin habit. And it wasn't just strangers who apparently fell for her deception -- Ozarowski's own grandmother sold her house in order to give her granddaughter over $100,000.
Awful and heartbreaking, indeed. Everyone from Ozarowski's father to local businesses to total strangers helped this girl's "cause" (via cash, gift certificates, and her PayPal account), and the money seemingly went to drugs. But the trickery isn't what we should focus on.
Instead, I'm glad to hear so many people wanted to help someone they believed to need it. Her father and grandma must be devastated -- what a betrayal. But one sad person's manipulation of her family and all those perfect strangers shouldn't make us afraid of being tricked or hesitant to give.
I say this as someone who has been on the receiving end of a scam. I was fresh out of college and living in London on a six-month student work visa, when a teenage girl approached me on a busy street one day, in tears. She told me her boyfriend had violently kicked her out of his car and she didn't have enough money to take the train home. Crying, she offered to give me her bracelet to hold until she could pay me back. I felt terrible and ended up walking with her to a cash machine to give her 20 pounds -- a LOT of money to me then! (And now, come to think of it.) I know, so stupid right?
I refused her bracelet; she cried and thanked me, but even as she walked away, I started to feel like a fool. Later, a fellow traveler, a cute boy from Canada, confirmed my suspicions; he'd been hit up with the same scam. We were suckers indeed.
Now, of course, I'm smarter about being charitable. There are causes that speak to me, and that's where I donate my money and time. And of course, I can't help every person who asks me when I spend a day in nearby NYC; I'd soon be out of funds. But I don't regret giving that girl the money. I didn't really at the time, and I don't now. Who knows what she used it for; she might really have needed it, or she might have just laughed at my stupidity as she bought beer or drugs or who knows what.
I don't care; I'm glad that when a fellow human asked me for help, I did what I thought I should do, what I could. And I hope that in the case of Ozarowski, the people who helped her feel the same way.
Have you ever been scammed out of money?
Image via dborman2/Flickr