Instead of my usual photo from the past, today’s post is unusual for a couple reasons – it’s a link to a web forum thread and I hadn’t seen it at the time it was originally posted a year ago. In fact, I had no knowledge of it until recently.
But I wanted to share it as I have been a regular user of CalgaryPuck, a fan-run site and message board for a really long time (how long? I use “headtale” on pretty much every site I’m registered with online except about three sites I joined before that became my user name of choice and CP is one of them) and I find the thread in Calgary Puck’s Off-Topic board fascinating as someone who is interested in all aspects of online community and culture, doxxing and more.
Basically what happened was a long time CP user, who was based in the southern US (Alabama/Florida), had posted about some health and financial issues he had and the community rallied and donated a few thousand bucks to him.
Around Christmas last year, he posted a Christmas greeting with a vague mention of his health issues recurring. Another user pointed out that he often dropped these types of needy references and it seemed fishy. There was some back and forth with those defending the scammer and others pulling apart his story. Various people began presenting proof that not only had he likely lied (or at least exaggerated his issues to play on people’s sympathies) but he’d also done this on multiple message boards, ranging from ones for football fans to hunters to users of anabolic steroids!
Lots of discussion was had about how far the community should/could go in outing this guy – did the fact that he’d made a lot of info about himself publicly available on Facebook, Twitter and other message boards give people the right to re-post this info, especially if it was incriminating? Should they go to law enforcement? His girlfriend or family? His current employer?
Adding fuel to the fire was the fact that some users felt ripped off while others said they still felt good about donating even if it went bad in this case.
One user who knew the scammer in person because they lived in the same area (and had even attended a wedding together) reached out to an ex-girlfriend of the scammer and after a couple tentative posts in a 42-page thread, she didn’t post again (partly because of warnings from the community to not provide “drama” to the group and/or that it might provide a risk to her depending on what she posted) and the thread was locked (for the second time – it was locked earlier at one point but then re-opened too.)
Again, the thread is long but has all kinds of Internet-rich stuff to sink your teeth into – the nature of community online, the ease of online donating, the difficulty of going against the rest of a group if something feels wrong, doxxing and vigilantism, the nature of the personas we craft for ourselves online, etc.