Home Hoaxes Debbie Shwartz Charity Hoax

Debbie Shwartz Charity Hoax

by Brett M. Christensen

Outline

Email claims that AOL will help Debbie Shwartz, a struggling single mother, by donating money every time an email is forwarded to 12 people.

Brief Analysis

This message is a pointless hoax. The claims in the message are untrue. The message is just one in a long line of similar hoaxes that claim that money will be donated in exchange for forwarding an email. Any message that makes such a claim is virtually certain to be a hoax and should not be sent on to others.

Example

Subject: WE ALL THINK OUR LIVES ARE HARD!!!! READ BELOW TO KNOW HOW LUCKY WE REALLY ARE

~~IF YOU DELETE THIS YOU ARE HEARTLESS!!~~

Dear Reader

I am a single mother of four kids: ages five, three and a half, 17 month, and two week old baby girl. God has blessed me with three beautiful, healthy children. Until recently things were going great for us, even though we struggled financially at times (my part-time job was not enough to support us).

Then, the tragedy struck on January 13th. My oldest, Matt, got hit by a car while playing outside. ( The driver never got fined – it was a hit and run). After agonizingly long weeks of hospitalization, we did not think he would live but thank godness is he alive right now … but barely. He is still in the hospital in the comatose condition. Doctors say he will be a vegetable for the rest of his live, for as long as he lives and even if he does come out of the coma – his brain is too damaged for him to lead a normal life. My insurance coverage run out and I can’t afford hospital bills. Right now I owe a hospital over 500,000 dollars so far.

Shortly, after the accident has happened, my 87 year old grandmother, with whom I was really close (she raised me as a child), suffered a stroke and could not live on her own anymore. I took her in.

All that happened while I was pregnant with Carissa. Because of all this severe stress that I’ve been through, Carissa was not only a premie but was born with Down’s syndrome as well as chronic colitis. She is also missing fingernails on her right hand. She is in the hospital as well because she needs to be monitored 24/7. Right now I am at the lowest point of my life: I don’t have a job – taking care of three sick family members that are so dear to me is a full time job – I can’t afford to pay for my tiny appartment, my car got taken away because no payment, not to mention the debt with a hospital!

I know you are not obligated to do anything: you are free to delete this email without giving it a second thought, but please listen to the cry from mothers heart! We had worked out a deal with AOL where for every 12 forwards I will get 15 cents. Please, don’t harden your heart, send this email to everyone on your list. This is crucial for our survival!! God bless you all!

Sincerely,

Debbie Shwartz

 

Detailed Analysis

This widely circulated email forward supposedly tells the sad story of a single mother named Debbie Shwartz who is trying to look after sick family members on her own while struggling to make ends meet financially.

According to the message, you can help Debbie simply be forwarding the email on to as many people as possible. The message claims that AOL has agreed to pay Debbie 15 cents every time the email is forwarded to 12 other people.

However, the message is a pointless hoax. AOL will certainly not donate money based on how many times an absurd email is forwarded. You can rest assured that sending on this email will do nothing whatsoever to help a family in need. In fact, this message is just another variant in a long line of very similar – and equally absurd – hoaxes that claim that a specified company or charitable organization will help a sick child or family by donating money in exchange for forwarding an email.
Any message that makes such a claim is certain to be a hoax. No legitimate company or organization is ever likely to participate in such a ridiculous fundraising scheme. Firstly, even if a company such as AOL did agree to such a plan, there is, in fact, no reliable or ethical method of tracking the journey of such a charity email as it moves its way to countless inboxes around the world. Therefore, it would be impossible to calculate in any meaningful way how much money such a forwarding campaign would actually raise. Secondly, these hoaxes never include any sort of time frame or other limiting factors in the supposed charity campaign messages.

Therefore, given that many of these hoaxes circulate for years on end, the participating company might find itself obligated to hand over very large amounts of money. No organization is ever likely to willingly place itself in such a precarious position.

The Debbie Shwartz version of the hoax has now been circulating continually for seven years and would have easily wracked up hundreds of thousands of forwards. If AOL was really donating 15 cents per 12 forwards, Debbie would actually be doing quite well by now with all of her major financial problems well and truly behind her. The 2010 version of this aging hoax tacks on a photograph depicting a young mother with her son. Since this image may have been added to the hoax email without the permission or knowledge of the woman in the photograph, I have not included it here.

If you receive this hoax message or one of its many variants, please do not forward it to others. And please help stop the spread of such pointless nonsense by informing the sender that the message is a hoax.

Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,
Hoax-Slayer