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Meet the scammers who make money on someone else's grief
Meet the scammers who make money on someone else's grief

People are scattering fake medicines in banks and hiding behind photographs of sick children for the sake of profit. And they are not ashamed.

Meet the scammers who make money on someone else's grief
Meet the scammers who make money on someone else's grief

This article is part of the Auto-da-fe project. In it, we declare war on everything that prevents people from living and becoming better: breaking laws, believing in nonsense, deceit and fraud. If you've come across a similar experience, share your stories in the comments.

This article can not only be read, but also listened to. If that's more convenient for you, turn on the podcast.

In a moment of despair, we lose the ability to think logically and are ready to believe anyone who promises to help. Give medicine for a deadly disease, find a missing relative, raise money for treatment. And those for whom someone else's misfortune is a reason to make money willingly profit from our helplessness.

Who profits from other people's problems

1. Pseudo philanthropists

Advertisements about fundraising for treatment often appear on social media. Children and adults with oncology, congenital pathologies and severe injuries - all of them need help, for which neither relatives nor the state have funds. Someone quickly scrolls through such ads, someone makes a repost and calls on friends to help, someone transfers money himself. Only now, very often, behind these desperate calls for help, there are swindlers who cynically parasitize on our sympathy.

Fraudsters use several schemes. More often than not, they just steal information from real fundraising groups. They copy photographs and scans of documents, sometimes even create clones of pages of charitable foundations and change only the requisites for transferring money to their own. And sometimes fraudsters introduce themselves as employees of the foundation, rub themselves into the confidence of the patient's desperate relatives and begin to actively collect money for his treatment. There is already no theft and forgery - a real person with an unthinkable misfortune. Only now the collection is carried out on the card of the "benefactor" and this money does not reach those in need.

Swindlers play on human compassion, which in itself is disgusting. But this is only part of the problem. Once having run into such people or having read a story about how others suffered, the next time someone will shrug off the next collection for fear of being deceived. So not only the wallets of caring people suffer, but also children and adults who really need help.

False benefactors are not a reason to refuse help. But before you transfer money to someone, take the time to check the information.

Use image search: do you see photos from the ad on other sites? Google your first name, last name, phone number and bank card number. If the scammers have already been spotted, perhaps someone wrote about it.

Ask for medical records if they are not on the page, and check if the names and dates match those in the text of the posts. In addition, on the pages of foundations and in private groups that really raise money to help people, they always post detailed reports on funds received and spent. If there is no such data, it is worth asking where you can see it. Avoiding an answer, refusal, blocking should alert you.

If the collection is on behalf of a charitable foundation, call the official phone number and check the information.

About five years ago I led a group on VKontakte with beautiful pictures and positive quotes. An unfamiliar girl wrote to me asking for help: her child is seriously ill, she needs money for treatment. Chronic kidney failure, and they live in a tiny town, wages are scanty, and there is not enough for the necessary drugs. Attached to the message are photos of the baby and scans of extracts.

I looked, felt deeply, and posted a fundraising post in my public for 10 thousand people. Helped the girl to create her own group, write posts. Encouraged friends to join the community and transfer money, vouched for her. She herself also made several translations.

At some point, one of my Internet acquaintances, having received a message from me, began to doubt: "How is it, why the child is not being treated under the compulsory medical insurance?" She invited the girl to show the certificates, extracts and appointments to a pediatric nephrologist in Moscow, so that he would advise and suggest how to organize a free examination and treatment in a Moscow hospital - maybe according to a quota or something else.

And then the strange began. The girl began to deny, to say some nonsense: now she is uncomfortable, then she does not trust doctors, then some other excuses. Not a single mother of a seriously ill child, in my opinion, will refuse to help with treatment and examination. We suddenly realized that all the documents that she posted were just separate pieces from different extracts and conclusions. An acquaintance asked for the full version, so that at least just show the specialist, but the girl (or maybe not a girl at all) did not answer and blocked both of us.

Then I checked the Yandex-wallet number to which the money was transferred to her. It turned out that the girl was on the black list of zoological volunteers: she was collecting funds for the treatment of non-existent puppies.

On my pages, I immediately wrote a refutation. It was terribly embarrassing that my friends and subscribers were transferring money to a fraudster because of me. Apparently, someone started to complain about her and she deleted the group. But for some reason I did not go to the police. I even do not know why.

2. Pseudopharmacists

Ways to make money on someone else's grief: pseudopharmacists
Ways to make money on someone else's grief: pseudopharmacists

Seriously ill people are parasitized not only by pseudo philanthropists. Some scammers, it turns out, have cures for any diseases - even those that official medicine cannot yet cope with. For example, from cancer. And they agree to share these miraculous drugs for a tidy sum: 5 thousand rubles or 30 thousand dollars - so lucky.

A sick person who believes in this spends not only money, but also time - an invaluable and irreplaceable resource. If adequate treatment of a malignant tumor is started at stage I, the five-year survival rate reaches 92%. At stage II, this figure drops to 76%, at stage III - to 56%.

Fraudsters who knead fake medicines in the basements or sell chalk or mushrooms to sick people for big money, take advantage of the fact that medicine is not yet omnipotent. And a person who has learned about a terrible diagnosis is in despair and cannot think rationally. But a miracle cure for cancer, alas, has not yet been invented.

3. Pseudo rescuers

According to various sources, up to 100 thousand people disappear in Russia every year. In 2018, the Lisa Alert search and rescue squad received almost 14,000 missing-person claims. Relatives, police officers and volunteers are looking for them. Day and night they comb the forests, post advertisements, distribute information on the Internet. Free of charge.

But for some, finding the missing is a business. For example, for those who call themselves private detectives and offer desperate relatives for money to knock a missing person through some mysterious database, which for some reason neither the police nor the volunteer search engines have.

And of course, all kinds of fortune-tellers, psychics and clairvoyants cannot stand aside. With their versions far from the truth, they confuse relatives, and sometimes the investigation. As a result, precious minutes are wasted, and the first 72 hours are the most important for a search. If a person is not found during this time, the chances of finding him alive are significantly reduced.

If a child is missing, the promptness of the reaction is even more critical. The search must begin immediately, even a few hours of delay can be fatal. In no case should they be wasted on charlatans. Psychic abilities are not scientifically proven. The lost can only be found by those who are looking, and not by those who look into the glass sphere.

Oleg Molodovsky

I have been involved in the search for the missing since 2012. It happens that a psychic claims that a person has drowned, but this is said in those circumstances when everything is more or less obvious. If the fortune-teller reports that the missing person is alive or died, it is clear that in 50% of situations she will be right. In the practice of "Lisa Alert" there was not a single case when a psychic would give information that would really help find a person.

Although relatives, unfortunately, turn to such people quite often. Or they find them themselves, for example in social networks. Some even call our hotline and ask for contacts of relatives: they supposedly feel where the missing person is and what happened to him. Someone dreamed, someone dreamed. Of course, we do not give any contacts and we strongly ask the relatives of the disappeared not to leave their data on social networks, so that all information passes through us and we can filter out swindlers, charlatans and eccentrics who really believe that they have some kind of abilities.

Yes, some fortune-tellers, astrologers and psychics are eager to help completely free of charge, on pure enthusiasm. They even have groups on social networks where they discuss searches, share versions and guesses, and debate. I can't understand what drives them.

We fundamentally do not consider information coming from psychics. Never. First, we are very skeptical about such things. And secondly, with the number of applications that we receive, we are technically unable to work out every version that has taken to someone's head. We cannot and have no right to waste time on this. We have our own proven search methods.

But all these "specialists" can be very confusing to relatives and give false hope. Not so long ago there was a story: the family trusted the psychic, raised many caring people in search of a person who by that time was already dead. People sent out information, posted flyers. And then it turned out that they wasted time and energy because of the inventions of the clairvoyant.

There are scammers who don't bother at all. They call us on the hotline and say that they know where the missing person is, but they will report it only for a reward. Ask for the phone number of relatives. We refuse them, but if they find the family of the disappeared themselves, they begin to extort money. And of course, the information they provide ends up being a lie.

4. Pseudomediums

Ever since people began to realize their mortality, they have been trying to look behind the veil of secrecy and talk to those who have left. In the 19th century, conversations with the dead became something of a popular entertainment. The enlightened public attended séances, and even a special genre of photography appeared, when “objects of the other world” were depicted in a photograph using decorations or retouching.

150 years have passed. The era of table-turning, afterlife howling and automatic writing is over, but there are still people who supposedly speak with spirits. They take money for their services, taking advantage of the gullibility and grief of those who have lost their loved ones and are trying to find solace.

Meanwhile, there is no scientific evidence of such supernatural abilities. Back in 1876, Dmitry Mendeleev assembled a commission, which delivered the verdict: "Spiritual phenomena originate from unconscious movements or conscious deception, and spiritualistic teaching is superstition."

In 2015, biologist and science journalist Alexander Panchin, along with other scientists, established the Harry Houdini Prize. A person who confirms his psychic abilities as part of a controlled scientific experiment is promised a million rubles. There is still no winner. Just as there is no similar award from the scientific skeptic James Randi. And the magic on the popular TV show "The Battle of Psychics" has been exposed more than once.

Clairvoyance, spiritism, and magical rituals are not the only ways to talk to the dead.

Technological progress dictates its terms, and now even ghosts agree to contact the living with the help of technology. But they do not yet recognize telephones and use televisions and radios.

To hear the voices of the dead, you need to record white noise and process the result in the editor: remove the noise, make it louder here, quieter there, perhaps even turn the recording over so that it sounds backwards. And then - voila - among the rustles, rustling and crackling it will be possible to make out a message from the underworld. This is called the electronic voice phenomenon.

Adepts of transcommunication - communication with the dead with the help of radios and televisions - is incorrect to compare with psychics. They do not ascribe to themselves any paranormal abilities, do not take tens of thousands of rubles for a consultation. But they write and sell books, as well as old ones, which are supposedly ideal for recording voices from the other world. And at the same time they mislead people and give them false hope, which can then turn into suffering.

The phenomenon of electronic voice has not been scientifically proven. But if you listen to white noise for a long time, especially when passed through an audio editor, you can really hear something that looks like speech. Only this is explained quite simply. For example, voices and melodies from other frequencies can accidentally break through the interference. Or a person is wishful thinking and hears what he really wants to hear. Like participants in an experiment who were asked to press a button when they heard the melody White Christmas in a white noise. And they really pressed the buttons, although no melody was turned on for them.

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Why do people trust scammers

1. They want to bargain for salvation

When a person has grief, for example, a serious illness or the loss of a loved one, he experiences five stages of accepting the inevitable: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, in fact, acceptance. This concept is periodically criticized. For example, it is said that all five stages are not always observed and they do not necessarily follow in a strict order.

One thing is for sure: it is very difficult to think critically during difficult times. A person is ready to believe in anything, just to find hope, lean on something and ease his suffering. At the bargaining stage, many try to knock out salvation: they hit religion, make vows, turn to clairvoyants, fortune-tellers and sorcerers - that is, to those who promise to heal, find missing loved ones or talk to the dead.

2. Become victims of manipulation

Fraudsters are skilled at manipulating, and it is quite difficult to resist them. They can intimidate, crush, substitute concepts, talk about. Psychics and fortune-tellers use the Barnum effect: they bombard the victim with statements, some of which, thanks to vague formulations, can be taken personally. For example, they say: "You have experienced a great loss", "You are tormented by serious doubts." The likelihood that in these characteristics a person recognizes himself and his situation is rather big. And if he is initially loyal to psychics, he can take what was said for the truth.

This effect was described in 1949 by psychologist Bertram Forer. He conducted an experiment: under the guise of a personality test, he gave his students a vague characteristic from the horoscope and asked them on a five-point scale to rate how much it corresponded to the truth. The students came to the conclusion that it is quite consistent - the average mark was 4.26 points. Although the description was the same for everyone. It is the Barnum effect that is to blame for the fact that people believe horoscopes, predictions and other nonsense.

In addition, some psychics and magicians collect information about clients in advance and present it as a result of their paranormal abilities.

3. Trust authorities

For example, parents, teachers, bosses, public figures. If one of them claims that soda can cure cancer, and psychics know how to find missing people, the person will also begin to share such views.

In families, mistrust of official medicine or belief in the supernatural is sometimes "inherited". The child absorbs the attitudes and judgments of the parents and transfers them into adulthood, often without analyzing in any way.

4. See patterns where they do not exist

Some people think that "after" and "after" are synonyms. I feel better after taking homeopathy, which means it helps. Broke your leg after a black cat crossed the road? The omen works. In the horoscope they promised financial success, and the next day the boss raised the salary? This means that astrologers are telling the truth.

Most often, these events are not connected in any way, but who cares, if you believe in signs, magic and horoscopes are much more interesting than dry facts.

How to avoid becoming a victim of scammers

Ways to make money on someone else's grief: how not to become a victim of scammers
Ways to make money on someone else's grief: how not to become a victim of scammers

1. Develop critical thinking

Read popular science articles and books, watch videos from popularizers of science, listen to lectures on physics, biology, anthropology, medicine, and fill knowledge gaps. Do not read the yellow press, train yourself not to trust information if it is not confirmed by research data or the words of certified specialists. All of this will increase your level of education and help develop healthy skepticism. It will be more difficult to confuse you and make you believe in some nonsense, even in a critical situation.

2. Check information

Do they want to sell you a miracle drug for all diseases? Are they offering to raise money for treatment? They say they know where your missing relative is? Before confiding in strangers, try to gather as much information as possible. Who are they, how they found you, can they prove that they work in a hospital or in the police, whether these people have been seen in fraud. Start with a simple search by first name, last name, phone number and bank card number. Do not be lazy to contact the hospital or charitable foundation from which your interlocutor is speaking.

3. Get help

In a critical situation, people often fall into despair and dream that someone would wave a magic wand and fix everything. During such periods, it is better to coordinate all decisions with loved ones: if you did not notice the catch, they may notice. In addition, be sure to contact specialists: doctors, lawyers, police officers. A versatile look at the situation will help you make the right decision.