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Reddit Users Call Children's Cancer Fundraiser a Fraud -- But She's Legit

maya gilseyWell, you dun goofed, Internet. When 21-year-old St. Lawrence University student Maya Gilsey took to Reddit to solicit donations for Golisano Children's Hospital in Syracuse, New York, the hive mind immediately branded her a fraud. A Redditor named Beertime led the pack against a user named mtcame07, who pledged to shave her head in solidarity with cancer-stricken children at Golisano, while also attempting to raise $10,000 to help pay for their treatments. Beertime's response: "PLEASE do not give any of your money to this woman claiming to shave her head for cancer. It's obviously a huge scam."

But it wasn't a scam. Admittedly, mtcame07's posts were a bit conspicuous; she would repeatedly post solicitations and then delete them, and redirected potential donors to her personal website and PayPal account, instead of one run through the hospital. According to Gawker, Beertime's insistence that mtcame07's posts were a con ("Can we all please band together and call this person on their shit and make them go away") helped to unleash the brute force of the Internet mob. When Gilsey checked back on Reddit yesterday afternoon, the site's users had turned against her. "Bullshit," wrote Reddit user fabtastik. "I just reported your name and all your sites to the police for fraud."

Others apparently threatened to send pizzas to Gilsey's house (a strange tactic repeatedly utilized by the vigilantes at Reddit and 4Chan), and also tracked her down on Facebook. Gilsey then responded directly to Beertime: "Why is it so hard to believe that maybe someone is actually doing something nice and worthwhile? I am not really sure how to convince anyone that I am doing this because I think everything I do someone will come up with some way that it might not be true." She added that the only reason she initially advertised a personal site for donations was because the hospital was lagging in setting up an official one for her. She now has an official donation site, and she sent Beertime a photo to try to prove her legitimacy.
Some Redditors still weren't buying it (including fabtastik), but Beertime eventually tried to defuse the situation. "There is a good chance this girl is legit," he wrote. "Yes, she used her own paypal account. Yes she spammed reddit a ton and deleted her posts. But she exists and has been threatened by thousands of goons and reported to the police, FBI, and paypal at this point. She seems scared and extremely worried. She was pretty naive in how she tried to raise money for charity, but it does seem she was trying."

Gawker confirmed that Gilsey does exist. "It was a little discouraging today because I'm shaving my head tomorrow," she told Gawker's Adrian Chen yesterday. "I was getting pumped up. Now this sucks." While Gilsey may be discouraged, she still plans on shaving her head today. (She told Gawker that she will send a photo of her shorn locks.)

While we can point fingers at Reddit users' knee-jerk reaction, we can't entirely fault them for being on their toes about online scams. Hell, maybe we should blame ourselves, too. It's not like we haven't sown the seeds of fear and mistrust of the wilds of the Web. The sad thing, of course, is that genuine selflessness seems so rare on the Internet that we automatically suspect that it must be a scam.

To date, Gilsey has raised $1,418 on her official site and $3,730 on her personal site. We're not sure if there's any redundancy in those figures, but, either way, she's still well shy of her $10,000 goal. So, head over to either site, and do your good deed of the day. We already did.

Tags: cancer, fraud, GolisanoChildrensHospital, MayaGilsey, oops, reddit, scam, socialnetworking, top, web