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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

Downtrodden Debbie Shwartz Hoax Claims AOL Will Give Her Money for E-mail

by Ken Newquist / January 25, 2004

A tragedy-filled,tear-jerking e-mail claims you're a heartless if you don't forward an e-mail that will net a distraught mother .12 cents from AOL for every person you send it to.

But if you do forward it, what you'll be missing isn't your heart -- it'll be another essential organ that usually resides inside your skull.

Date Captured: 1/23/2004

pray that the Lord Jesus delivers her from her situation...

*** IF YOU DELETE THIS YOU ARE HEARTLESS!! ***

Dear Reader

I am a single mother of four kids: ages five, three and a half, 17 months, and a two week old baby girl. God has blessed me with three beautiful, healthy children. Until recently, things were going great for us even though we struggled financially at times (my part-time job was not enough to support us).

Then, the tragedy struck on January 13th. My oldest, Matt, got hit by a car while playing outside.  ( The driver was never got found - it was a hit and run). After agonizingly long weeks of hospitalization, we did not think he would live but thank god he is alive right now ... but barely. He isstill in the hospital in the comatose condition. Doctors say he will be a vegetable for the rest of his life, if he ever comes out of the coma - his brain is too damaged for him to live a normal life. My insurance coverage ran out and I can't afford the hospital bills. Right now, I own the hospital over 500,000 dollars so far.

Shortly after the accident happened, my 87-year-old grandmother, with whom I was really close (she raised me as a child), suffered a stroke and could not live on her own anymore. I took her in.

All of this happened while I was pregnant with Carissa. Therefore, this severe stress that I've been through caused Carissa to be born a premie with Down's syndrome as well as chronic colitis. She is also missing fingernails on her right hand.  She is in the hospital as well because she needs to be monitored 24/7. Right now I am at the lowest point of my life. I don't have a job. I'm taking care of three sick family members that are so dear to me, and it is a full time job. I can't afford to pay for my tiny apartment. My car got taken away because I couldn't make the payments, not to mention the debt with a hospital!

I know you are not obligated to do anything. You are free to delete this email without giving it a second thought, butplease listen to the cry from a mother's heart!  We worked out a deal with AOL where for every 12 forwards I will get 15 cents. Please don't harden your heart. If you can spare the time, then send this email to everyone on your list. This is crucial for our survival!! God bless you all!

Sincerely,

Debbie Shwartz

*** Send this to everyone on your list and to all the people you know including the person who sent it to you ***

The wording of this e-mail is different from other "free money for good causes" e-mails going around, but it's just as bogus as "Natalie" (who's dying of brain cancer) and "Rachel Arlington" (who also has brain cancer).

The simple reason why these are all hoaxes is this: e-mail tracking programs do not exist. AOL can't track each individual e-mail and thus, can't pay anyone anything for forwarding it. Neither could Bill Gates, Outback Steakhouse and British Airways.

Can anyone track e-mail like this? Well, there's the FBI's Carnivore software and its successors, which are designed to scan large amounts of e-mail, and and are installed on Internet Service Providers' computers. But they're looking to give out prison sentences, not money. There have been rumblings of secret government programs capable of reading huge amounts of e-mail as well, independent of specialized ISP software, but again, they are not looking to give money to a someone ike Debbi Shwartz.

And finally, if you go to AOL's Web site, you'll find no mention of its campaign to aid Debbie Shartz, though you might suspect they'd want to promote such a charitable endevour.

You can read other debunkings of this hoax at these sites: