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Another diarist has been unmasked as questionable.

It makes me sad. But I'm grateful for the efforts of Adam B and others to bring this out in the open.

I was one of the scammed. More below the squiggle.

I'm one of the people who were fooled and sent "Charley" money back a few months ago. I don't donate to things like this every often -- I'm pretty skeptical by nature and I don't often have a lot of money to spare.

I think the dog overcame my natural skepticism. I have strong feelings about the bond between pets and their people, and a dog with a basket in his mouth is one of the world's most effective fundraisers.

I'm disappointed to see that money that might have gone to actually help someone somewhere went to a con artist. It's certainly going to raise my skepticism bar, and I'll be less likely to be generous in the future.

But, on the other hand, I really hope this doesn't poison the well, so to speak, for future donations to people in need.

I know that donations to established charities are safer than ad-hoc fundraisers for individuals. But even that isn't without its risks (see recent stories about veterans charities that collected millions and donated next to nothing to the people they were supposed to be helping).

Even well-established charities often use fund raising companies that keep most of the money raised.

I know this is going to make me sound like one of the worst McScrooges in the world, but I stopped donating to the United Way many years ago. I do make charitable contributions, but never to the biggest organizations.

My reason for turning away from UW: In high school, I observed teachers competing to raise money for the "Torch Drive," in ways that actually rose to the level of strong arming students for their lunch money. Then, later, when I was in the U.S. Navy (stateside during the Vietnam War) I was strong-armed by my commanding officer because he would get an award if 100% of the people under him donated. The same day, I was sent on a public affairs mission to photograph the commander of the base giving HIS donation. The admiral balked when he saw his suggested amount (we all had to give our suggested amount). He was advised to make the donation and rescind it as soon as the press conference was over.

I never got over that. I went back to my unit and rescinded my donation. Then I told my commanding officer: "If everyone HAS to give, this isn't a donation, it's a tax. And since I don't get to vote for who runs the charity, it's taxation without representation. I'm not giving, and because I don't give, we can all know this is an honest game. You can retaliate against me if you like, but this is MY money and I'll spend it as I please." (The retaliation happened, but it was not horrible. I think he had to save face, but actually respected my decision.)

I've never given to workplace charities since because I believe that it's a form of extortion. You're being told to give by people who have power over you. I've gone toe-to-toe with the boss over this, and have never backed down.

So, back to ad hoc fundraisers: I have mixed feelings because it's a shame for generosity to be wasted on scammers. But I almost think it's worse for people to be so afraid of enabling a scam that they never take a chance and help a fellow human being in need.

There is a place in our society for organized charities. There is a place for government help. But I think there also needs to be a place for "Me to You" help.

What's the worse outcome? A scammer makes a buck now and then, or we lose all our chances to feel the satisfaction of directly helping someone in need?

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