“Go Fund Me Scam Exposed by Influencer”

A TikToker fooled thousands of GoFundMe contributors by claiming to be sick with cancer.

Online fraudsters have stolen billions of dollars in recent years, and they are using social media to do so.

According to a Federal Trade Commission study, social media fraud has cost Americans $2.7 billion since 2021. The government also stated that this figure only reflects a fraction of the total harm because the majority of fraud instances go unreported.

Last year, Australians reported $80.2 million in losses due to social media scams, a 43% rise over the previous year.

We have no idea how much money has been lost due to web frauds around the world.

People continue to fall prey to social media scams in part because fraudsters utilise a variety of methods to locate their victims.

But, while I can’t justify everything, using an illness to steal money from others is not only wrong, but it also puts into question those people’s mental health.

Madison Russo, the TikToker, have you heard of her?
This is the case of a 19-year-old Iowa girl accused of fabricating a cancer diagnosis in order to steal more than $37,000 from GoFundMe donors.

According to an Eldridge Police Department news release, Madison Russo, an Eldridge native, was charged on January 23, 2023, with theft by deception, a class C felony.

According to the news release, Russo received more than $37,303 from 439 contributors on GoFundMe in 2022 after claiming to have “Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, Stage 2 Pancreatic Cancer, and a football-sized tumour that wrapped around her spine.”

Wait? Can you imagine it?

You’re about 19 years old and claim to have a terminal sickness.

Do you even know what I’m saying?

Throughout the investigation, when subpoenas for medical records were issued, it became evident that Madison had never obtained a cancer or tumour diagnosis from any medical facility in the Quad areas or the other areas.

Russo put forth a lot of time and work into her alleged fraud.

She allegedly shared intimate information about her supposed chemotherapy and radiation treatments on TikTok. She says in one video, “My body is fighting so, so hard every minute just to stay alive.”

Although Russo’s TikTok account is no longer active, the app has rebroadcast many of her videos.

She shared details about her “fictional life,” including facts about her illness, posted photographs, and talked about how she copes with traumatic life events. on her TikTok channel.

She set up a GoFundMe account on the platform where donations were accepted to help with her medical bills.

Naturally, many media sites wanted to report such stories, thus Madison told the North Scott Press in October 2022, “Life has been crazy.” It’s a Catch-22 situation.

If I fail, I can’t succeed. I feel like I’ve been utterly shaken, and things are a little hazy right now. “I just want to know my game plan,” she told the outlet, “And right now, I don’t know what that is.”

“Obviously, not every day can be sunshine and rainbows, but you can’t just choose to be angry at cancer,” she said. It only happens to humans.

I feel that if you continue to be miserable and live in a depressing environment, your physical state will not improve.” She confessed to the media two years before her cancer diagnosis that she had Type 1 diabetes.

“I’m just trying to carry on with life, to go to school, work, and do normal things,” she told the publication. My routine has certainly shifted. I spend a lot of time at home, and the treatments can make you sick and melancholy. “I try to approach it with the best attitude because I believe that your attitude during treatment can play a big part in your outcome,” the patient went on to say.

Their prognosis was 11% five years prior to the finding of the most recent tumour. 11%. I’m not sure if I’ll make it to the age of 19 to graduate from college, get married, or have a child. Meanwhile, I intend to fight.

However, everything became clear
People with medical expertise who were following Madison on her TikTok channel began pointing out the various medical inconsistencies in her social media photographs.

An investigation was launched after a police report was filed.

Throughout their investigation, police learned that when her medical equipment was depicted on her body in images shared on social media, medical professionals recognised “appalling and life-threatening inaccuracies” in her posts.

She appeared to have taken these photos from her apartment rather than a doctor’s office. Furthermore, authorities discovered that some of the images published on social media came from cancer patients’ websites.

Officers executed a search warrant at her Bettendorf home and obtained important evidence. During the search, authorities discovered a grey 2023 Kia Sportage, medical equipment, bank paperwork, an IV pole and feeding pump, two boxes of clear bandages, a wig, cash, and anti-nausea drugs in the relative’s name.

Outside of medical disparities and the GoFundMe page, Madison received private contributions from other firms, NGOs, school systems, and private individuals, according to an investigation.

Think about it if you can
In addition, Russo spoke about her cancer experience on a Project Purple podcast. In Chicago, she also offered guest lectures at St. Ambrose College and The National Pancreas Foundation.

Although Maddie Russo’s Facebook profile remains available, her other social media profiles where she detailed her cancer battle appear to have been deleted, and messages about the sickness have either been removed or made private.

According to police, Russo was arrested and brought to the Scott County Jail before being released on $10,000 bail.

A class C felony in Iowa has a maximum sentence of ten years in prison, according to state law.

Russo’s campaign was withdrawn by GoFundMe, which also barred her from using the service in the future and returned all contributions. “GoFundMe has a zero-tolerance policy for misuse of our platform and cooperates with law enforcement investigations of those accused of wrongdoing,” said a representative for the organisation.

How in the world could she plan and carry out this type of deception?

Is this a desperate attempt?

I also think about the folks that rush to help when someone’s life is in danger. And I’m proud of them all.

On the one hand, people have empathy, which is wonderful, especially in these difficult circumstances, but can we fall victim to online scams too easily?

I’ve also left some questions for you, and I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

This post was written by Mario Bekes