List of cancer victim hoaxes

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There is a long tradition of hoaxsters transmitting untrue stories about the suffering of victims of cancer, either to raise money, to harvest valid email addresses, or to cause trouble.<ref> Template:Cite book</ref><ref name=Cnn2001-02-03> Template:Cite news mirror </ref><ref name=SooToday2007-04-17> Template:Cite news mirror </ref><ref name=EmailHoaxes> Template:Cite book </ref>

The Jessica Mydek hoax letters have been used as an example of a typical cancer victim hoax in several computer security textbooks.<ref name=ElementaryInfoSec2011> Template:Cite news </ref><ref name=cyberliteracy> Template:Cite news </ref><ref> Template:Cite news </ref> According to Richard E. Smith, the author of Elementary Information Security, the Mydek letters were typical examples of email hoax letters:

A common type of chain email claims to promote some charitable activity by generating lots of email traffic. These are almost always bogus; no well-known charity has ever intentionally promoted such an activity. In particular, numerous chain emails have claimed that each email sent will yield a donation for cancer research, or specifically, to the American Cancer Society.<ref name=ElementaryInfoSec2011/>

In her analysis of examples of the Jessica Mydek hoax letters Theresa Heyn, author of Email Hoaxes: Form, Function, Genre Ecology, found it had the three classic elements scholars recognize in a sympathy hoax letter: the "hook", the "threat", and the "request".<ref name=EmailHoaxes/> In the Mydek letter the hook was the heartbreaking claim apparently from a child dying of cancer.

List of alleged cancer victims

alleged victim 1st year active notes
Craig John<ref name=GaryRichard/>
Craig Shelford<ref name=EmailHoaxes/><ref name=Globe1994-11-04/>
Craig Shelton<ref name=GaryRichard/>
Craig Sheford<ref name=Globe1994-11-04/>
Craig Sheppard<ref name=Portales2006-01-14/>
Craig Sherford<ref name=Globe1994-11-04/>
Craig Sherwood<ref name=Globe1994-11-04/>
Gary Richard<ref name=GaryRichard/>
  • In the 1980s a boy named Craig Shergold suffering from cancer, requested the public's help him to get listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the recipient of the highest volume of get-well cards.<ref name=TheGuardian2001-02-01/> He was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.<ref name=SnopesCraigShergold/> Shergold did win his listing in the record book, after receiving over one and a quarter million cards, and his cancer went into remission.<ref name=MilwaukeeJournal1992-06-10/> Unfortunately his story was so compelling and capable of capturing public sympathy, that he continued to get such a large volume of mail that it was a burden.<ref name=Globe1994-11-04/> Attempts to convince the public Shergold was in remission, and no longer needed or wanted more cards were in effect.
  • By 1992 variant chain letters modeled after Shergold's original sincere chain letter campaign started to circulate.<ref name=MilwaukeeJournal1992-06-10/><ref name=TimesDaily1993-05-29/><ref name=SunSentinel2001-03-11/><ref name=WeLiveSecurity/><ref name=TimesHerald2009-11-24/><ref name=TalesRumors/> These variant chain letters changed the cancer suffer's name. These variant chain letters no longer requested get well cards -- they request business card. Security analysts asserted the letters were being to harvest names and phone numbers of credulous individuals for a sucker list, who could later be targeted by telemarketers or con artists.<ref name=Globe1994-11-04/>
  • Variant of this hoax chain letter were still circulating in 2006.<ref name=Portales2006-01-14/>
"Jessica Mydek" 1997
  • The letter from "Jessica Mydek" represented itself as a letter from a 7-year-old girl with terminal brain cancer, but the American Cancer Society determined there was no such child.<ref name=TheGuardian2001-02-01>

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  • The Jessica Mydek letter requested recipients to forward the letter as widely as possible among their friends and acquaintances, and include a bogus email address on the carbon copy list, that they claimed was that of the American Cancer Society. The email addresses on the carbon copy list were subsequently sold to other online fraudsters.
"Tamara Martin"
  • The Tamara Martin chain letter tells recipients that Dave Matthews, of the Dave Matthews Band, will send his American Online screen name to them to reward them for forwarding Tamara's story to their friends.<ref name=TheGuardian2001-02-01/><ref>

Template:Cite news </ref><ref name=KingportDailyNews2000-08-17> Template:Cite news </ref> The letter reports that Tamara has six months to live.

"Amy Bruce" 1997
  • The Amy Bruce chain letter claimed little Amy was "suffering from lung cancer due to second hand smoke and a large brain tumor due to repeated beatings."<ref name=KingportDailyNews2000-08-17/><ref name=DekalbTimesJournal>

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  • Versions of the Amy Bruce chain letter have been circulating from as early as 1997.<ref name=TVNZ>

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"Jonathan Jay White" 2009
  • Melissa Ann Rice, 24, claimed to be a 15-year-old cancer victim.<ref name=Kxnet-2009-07-24>

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  • The Jonathan Jay White hoax targeted celebrities, including Lance Armstrong, Tony Hawk and Kenny Chesney.<ref name=Kxnet-2009-07-24/><ref name=SkyNews2009-07-21/>
  • The body of Rice, the hoaxster, was found in her car, a week after charges were laid.<ref name=Kxnet-2009-07-24/>
Jessica Vega 2010
  • According to her ex-husband Vega claimed to have leukemia in order to trick others to finance a lavish wedding and honeymoon.<ref name=TimesHeraldRecord2010-09>

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Jennifer Dibble (Rubio) 2003
Martha Nicholas 1999
  • In April 2011 Virginia Police, acting on a tip, began investigating Nicholas, a forty-two year-old mother of two, who claimed she had ovarian cancer, since she "was in her twenties".<ref name=HuffPost2011-12-11>

Template:Cite news </ref><ref name=CBS-2011-12-11> Template:Cite news </ref><ref name=TimesDispatch2013-01-11> Template:Cite news </ref> Nicholas was charged in December 2011. Her guilty plea was accepted in April 2011, and she was sentenced in May 2013.

  • Nicholas and the prosecution agreed on a plea deal in early January 2013.<ref name=Kcbd2013-01-11>

Template:Cite news </ref> Unexpectedly, Robert D. Laney, the Hanover Country, Virginia Judge on her case, declined to approve the plea deal, asserting Nicholas's crime undermined the public's confidence in genuine charities, and this required a more stringent sentence.<ref name=TimesDispatch2013-01-11/>

  • In May 2013 she was given a 10 year suspended sentence.<ref name=Wric2013-05-22>

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  • Nicholas convinced her own children she was dying of cancer.<ref name=Cekin>

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  • Nicholas raised funds at fund-raising events, and through selling T-shirts and costume jewelry bearing anti-cancer logos.<ref name=Gather>

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  • Nicholas used a wheelchair to convince potential donors she was suffering from cancer.<ref name=Ksee2011-12-09>

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  • Nicholas faced separate trial for Medicaid fraud, and for defrauding donors.<ref name=Wtvr2013-01-08>

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  • Was a beneficiary of the Relay for life charity.<ref name=HuffPost2011-12-11/>
Jessica Ann Leeder 2010
  • Like Kirilow, 21-year-old Huntsville, Ontario Leeder used Facebook to solicit funds to support her fight against a non-existent cancer.<ref name=TimminsTimes2010-11-07>

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Keele Maynor 2003
  • From 2003 through 2008 Chattanooga, Tennessee resident Maynor hoaxed co-workers of funds and sick days through claims she had breast cancer.<ref name="MsNbc2010-09-07" />
Brigid A. Corcoran 2010
  • Corcoran raised thousands of dollars at fund raising event, on the untrue claim she had non-Hodgkins lymphoma.<ref name=Ahn2010-08-21>

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