Belle Gibson. Remember that name?
She’s the Aussie girl who profited more than $1 million convincing the world that she cured her cancer utilising a wholistic approach.
Except… she never had cancer.
This is an extreme case of Munchausen by Internet. Munchausen syndrome is a factitious disorder whereby someone will fake an illness in order to generate sympathy and attention.
The internet has simply made this a lot easier to do. Belle’s story is just one in a growing list of high profile cases, such as Dee Dee Blanchard and the Warrior Eli hoax, which have been revealed to involve a complex web of deception over many, many years.
A young woman named Emily Dirr, who was eventually found to have been behind the Warrior Eli hoax spent eleven years detailing the lives of the phoney family she created, and even managed at least 71 known Facebook accounts of their supposed friends and family to perpetuate the lie.
With the explosion of crowdfunding sites in recent years, such as GoFundMe and YouCaring, it's never been easier for people with such disorders to raise money from friends and strangers to assist with supposed medical costs.
The motivation here isn't necessarily financial gain. Sufferers get so much more from playing the role of patient; the crowdfunding itself helps validate their story and increases the level of attention they so desperately crave.
Of course, crowdfunding platforms have also attracted your every day run of the mill scam artists too. More and more malingerers are turning to crowdfunding to scam money out of unsuspecting people. It's easy, simply post some pictures that tug at the heart strings, sell an emotional story, share your link all over social media and watch the money roll in.
This week, a Facebook where a 'mum' shared an emotional story about how her daughter had just been diagnosed with the same cancer that killed both her husband and her eldest daughter.