A friend has a constant refrain: “Stop helping. You’re not helping.”
He makes a valid point. Humans want to be helpful creatures, but we can’t seem to help ourselves from sometimes making things worse.
So. Much. Worse.
Do you really want to help? Then maybe stop helping.
Our son had gone missing (that’s a story for another day). Desperate to spread information about our child as far and as fast as possible, we took to social media, and our posts were practically viral within a matter of hours.
Hundreds of our friends—and even more strangers!—shared our posts, trying to help bring our son home. However, those same kind-hearted folks became trapped in a missing-child algorithm.
Posts about a missing children started populating their digital feeds. And in their attempt to be helpful, loved ones started sharing them. All of them. Every. Single. One.
With our son still missing, my social media newsfeed became overrun by friends sharing posts about other missing children.
The problem? Most of those kids had been located years prior (some with happy, others with tragic endings). Even worse, some of them were scams.
One friend from high school started sharing these outdated missing child posts multiple times a day, so I reached out to her.
“This kid was located and returned safely two years ago. Please check before sharing these posts. They become a distraction and get in the way of finding kids who are still missing. Also, some of these posts can be brutal reminders to families whose stories didn’t end well.”
“I’m just trying to help!”
And then she blocked me.
Thanks, former friend.
By the way, stop helping. You’re not helping.
Friends, let’s cut to the chase: sometimes the stuff you share online is more problematic than you realize. Sometimes, you’re actually partnering up with some pretty awful people, and you certainly become very helpful to them.
And that’s your goal, right—to just be helpful?
Consider these types of posts we see on Facebook all the time.
“I just hit this dog with my truck. I took him to the vet and he’s not microchipped. Please share and help me find his owner.”
You see that photo of that poor, lost, injured animal, and you want to help, so you share. And your friends share. And their friends share. And in a matter of days, thousands of people share a post that’s designed to recruit people just like you who only want to help.
But that lost, injured pet post you’re sharing? It’s a total scam.
With just a little research, you’ll find that same injured pet post with different locations, names, and photos. Sometimes there’s even a missing senior citizen or an autistic child that’s part of that bogus pet post.
All of them—complete, total BS. But you just had to be helpful, so you shared that post … and suddenly you’re helping some jerk scam some poor sucker down the line.
This online scam works beautifully because scammers know two things about you:
1. You have a good heart, and you want to help.
2. Also, you’re too preoccupied with life to discern whether something is real or fake.
Besides, why would someone create a fake post about a lost, injured pet anyway?
Right now you’re probably thinking, “How is this even a scam? If that injured dog post is fake, so what?”
Stop helping for a minute, and I’ll explain how this scam works.
First, some scammer shares a post about a missing/injured pet. They know kind souls like you will share it. And you do. Within a few days, that post will have attracted thousands of eyeballs. Then it’s game-on.
Once that post gets shared thousands of times, the scammer edits the original post. With a few keystrokes, it’s no longer a post about a lost pet. Now it’s some real estate and/or rental deal that is an urgent, cash-only deal. And it’s such a good deal, scammers know that they only have to hook one desperate person to rob them of hundreds of dollars.
This happens every day, all over the world … and you’re helping make it happen.
Admittedly, it’s hard to be a conscientious consumer of online information. However, when it comes to these types of posts, there are a couple things you can do to protect yourselves and others—YES, there are ways to actually HELP!
First, look at the source page of the original post. If it’s some community buy/sell/trade/marketplace type of page … 99.9999% of the time, it’s a total scam. These pages are loosely moderated, and scammers know it. They can cast enormous nets long before that post gets flagged or removed.
Next, look at the original poster. Go to their personal page. All of them are relatively new accounts with no other posts and few-to-no friends/followers. Also, they rarely have any online presence beyond some bogus, generic account photo.
Friends, these are scam accounts! Stop helping them.
Every time I see friends share these posts, I reply with the same comment: “Scam.” I would comment more, but these posts spread like herpes, and I don’t have the time or energy to fight every outbreak.
That’s why I’m offering this, and I’m asking you to … well … help.
Help spread the cure. Ask your friends and family to help … and stop helping. Because they’re NOT helping.
Is that helpful?
God, I hope so.
I’m exhausted by all the help out there.
Be well, friends.
Be helpful and share this.