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Everyone Wanted to Help Cindy. That Was Her Plan

Sarah Treleaven shares a case of GoFundMe fraud
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 21, 2020 2:23 PM CDT

(Newser) – In 2014, Sarah Treleaven got a Facebook friend request from an old classmate. She accepted—only later to discover that in doing so, she was getting drawn into a scam. But before everything imploded came that initial reconnection with Cindy, a "chronic oversharer" whose humorous feed poked at her trouble in finding a boyfriend and touted her intention to "marry a bag of Jalapeno & Cheddar Doritos." The levity didn't last long, Treleaven writes on OneZero. A caregiver soon posted on her feed that Cindy had been fighting the neurological disorder chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP). The "Help Save Cindy's Life" page was set up so friends could rally around her. A GoFundMe campaign started for Cindy in November of that year revealed that she was blind, unable to speak, and had suffered organ failure and a stroke.

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She couldn't talk, but she was present: in photos and videos posted by her caregivers that showed the Canadian woman hooked up to IVs in bed. Supporters were told that if she could get well enough via experimental drugs, she would be eligible for a stem cell transplant. A GoFundMe goal of $1.2 million was set. Nearly a tenth of that was raised before "people in Cindy’s orbit started to realize something about the story was terribly wrong," writes Treleaven. She details the unraveling: In March 2015 friends tried to enlist a local reporter to help draw attention to Cindy's case. Except after interviewing Cindy's concerned sister and best friend, the journalist still didn't know the names of her doctors or medications; the story got axed and police were notified. Two months later, a member of the Facebook group saw Cindy—walking just fine outside her apartment. The jig was up. (What happened to Cindy? Read the full story.)

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