Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cynical or Realistic? By: Karen Pilarski

Hoaxes and scams create a splash of embarrassment that washes over it's victims and spreads like a virus. Soon the aftermath spirals onto others. 
 
The first big scam I remember clearly is when I was in middle school. On the news in Milwaukee, WI was the story of Kitty Wuerl who claimed to have found a syringe in her soda can. 

Everyone was terrified if the tab of soda was opened they might discover a needle bobbing within the fizzy drink.  Due to this, I only drank clear soda from a bottle for awhile. Her claims made a sensational news piece. Unfortunately for the local newspaper she worked at, it was a false sensational story. 

Wuerl's hoax was uncovered but not before the damage was done. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1993-06-19/news/9306190061_1_needle-hoax-vending-machine

After Wuerl was found out, people were steamed. First she caused public fear, hurt the newspaper and the soda company's reputation.  Although silly nonsense, my siblings and I would often say "Kitty is off her whirl" when her picture would appear on the news.


As a receptionist while in college, I had random people come up to me. Frequent scams were quick change artists, people who claimed to have 'run' out of gas and needed money.

One incident that made me furious was a lady kept coming around saying she was an alum and was starting a new job. She said she didn't have gas money. I told her I couldn't help her and that she should try contacting a friend or family member.  She managed to swindle other receptionists who worked different shifts and locations out of money.

This 'alum' changed her story and conned a few more employees out of money. I swore if I found her I would tell her off and threaten to call the cops. How dare she take advantage of hard working women and friends of mine?!

I mentioned to my colleagues and friends that they shouldn't give money to everyone with a sad tale. Yet their big hearts would hear none of my cold cynicism.

Turns out the frizzy haired lady with pants on fire was caught and someone must have beaten me to the punch. I never noticed her around again. She is lucky.

Every so often I receive emails and tweets about some sob story about an alleged illness or some guy in a foreign city that needs help. Let me first state I'm very compassionate and care about others. I just refuse to be conned if I can help it.

This past week there was an interview on ABC's Nightline showcasing country star Brad Paisley and his wife, actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley. http://abcnews.go.com/US/uncovering-dying-daughter-hoax-lured-celebrities/story?id=20793858

In the interview the couple admitted to being duped by a person claiming her daughter was dying of cancer.

Williams-Paisley mentioned that the woman who reached out to her was able to prey on her love for children. As a mother herself she was able to identify with the other mother's plight. During the interview she stated "As a mother, wanting my kids to be okay, she hit my softest spot."

As it often turns out the Paisleys weren't the only victims of the scam. Other celebrities fell for the bait.

Tonight I was discussing this with my friend Ellen and she said she has fallen for scams. She figured karma would get those who were frauds. "God knows the good I did." I told Ellen I wish I could be like her.  Ellen made a brilliant observation after I said I can't pinpoint why I'm cynical of people's motives. "You tend to think the worst. Perhaps because you have actually seen the worst. " 

If friends or people I know are in need I'm willing to lend a hand. I support cancer charities and children's safety initiatives. As a writer I want to inform people and inspire. Many celebrities use their fame to do the same.


 "That's a huge part of why I do what I do is so that I can use my influence for good and to help," Kimberly Williams-Paisley said. "And if there is someone that I can help, I will help."

The lesson is to not distrust everyone, just be a bit cautious and protect the most valuable thing. Your heart.