Friday, December 7, 2018

Drawing the Line on Giving: Secret Subject Swap

Welcome a Secret Subject Swap. This month 8 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts. Read through mine and at the bottom you’ll find links to all of today’s other Secret Subject participants.

Secret Subject Swap, a multi-blogger writing challenge | | #MyGraphics

My subject is: I joined several pay it forward groups in the last few months and donated to a few people. Have you (or would you) ever donated money to a stranger online? Why or why not? If you found out it was a scam, would it deter you in the future?
It was submitted by Jenniy of Climaxed.

There are two parts to my answer to this question. First let me just explain my situation. My husband is a Financial Advisor. It's a highly regulated field, as it should be. Protecting our money, and by extension our future, requires strict guidelines for those entrusted with it in terms of integrity, reputation, and actions.

I am acutely aware that anything that I do online could reflect on him, especially if it turns out to be a scam. Not just that, but there could be ramifications if it is well meaning but breaks (even innocently), for instance, tax laws. I'm just not going to put myself or my family in that kind of jeopardy. And I err on the side of caution so I not only do I never donate to people I don't know online, but I try to do absolutely nothing involving payment with people I don't know.

I'm not, of course, talking about dealing with reputable companies. But I've even taken it so far as, when joining (free) raffles in support of friends, instructing them to donate anything I win. 

That's not to say that I never give, but I do it in person or through established charities. I have favorite charitable causes to which I donate. They are ones whose causes have meaning to me in a personal way. Including but not limited to purchasing gifts for orphans at holiday time, donating blood and platelets, donating clothes and household appliances, paying it forward in coffee shops, cooking dinners for people in need and I frequently bake for charities.

Beautiful for the holidays or any time of the year, Red Velvet Candy Cane Cake will be a new family favorite. | Recipe developed by | #recipe #cake #Christmas

Red Velvet Candy Cane Cake
Beautiful for the holidays or any time of the year, Red Velvet Candy Cane Cake will be a new family favorite. | Recipe developed by | #recipe #cake #Christmas

The second part of my answer is that, in the circumstances delineated in this question, I would not participate even if I felt I could. I am a skeptical person by nature. I don't trust easily those who I just don't know, can't look in the face, have a conversation with or see in a situation that I trust.  

My son's Amazon account was recently hacked. Due to past purchases he had a credit card associated with that account as well as his debit card, his brother's debit card and my Master Card. It was a nightmare. Both my son and my bank caught it immediately so the hacker actually got nothing from us, but we all spent the day dealing with it. We had to call and email banks and retailers and credit card companies, cancel cards and close accounts, change passwords and email addresses. Fortunately we got everything canceled before any of the fraudulent purchases shipped.

The lengths that these scammers go to was surprising to me. They ordered items to be shipped to empty lots so they could then pick up the items from the shippers. They bombarded PurDude's email with newsletters. Apparently they sign up their target for thousands of free newsletters so any email confirming what turns out to be a fraudulent purchase gets lost in the hordes of mail. 

There are people out there who spend their time stealing from others. Can we identify them from an email? A website? An online call for help? Sometimes (no, I don't send my financial information to an "attorney" in {{insert any foreign country here}} so they ca send me millions of dollars. But often there is just no way of knowing who we're dealing with online. And my guess is that, like any other endeavor, those who are most successful at defrauding are very good at subterfuge. 

I don't blame people like Jenniy for believing, for wanting to see the good in people, for even being willing to take a loss or two along the way. I witnessed an online friend help another online friend (none of us have met) in a way that made a huge difference in the life of the recipient. In my own way I envy them, people who can take that kind of chance. After all, skepticism requires being constantly on alert in a way that being able to trust does not. But in the end, for a number of reasons, making monetary donations to strangers online is just not for me.  

Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts. Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:

Baking In A Tornado signature | | #MyGraphics

Red Velvet Candy Cane Cake

Printable Recipe

2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sat 
1 TBSP baking cocoa
1 1/2 cups oil
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 oz red food coloring
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
12 candy canes, finely crushed (can substitute starlight mint hard candies)

1 stick butter, softened
1 tsp peppermint extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
up to 1/4 cup milk

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan.
*Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and baking cocoa.
*In a separate large bowl beat the oil, eggs, food coloring, vinegar and vanilla.
*Beat in half of the dry ingredients, then half of the buttermilk, the other half of the dry ingredients and finally the rest of the buttermilk followed by 1 cup of the crushed candy canes. Set the remaining crushed candy canes aside for later.
*Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan.
*Bake for 45 - 50 minutes or until the center springs back to the touch. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges and remove from the pan. Cool completely.
*Cream together the butter and peppermint extract. Carefully blend in the powdered sugar. Then, 1 TBSP at a time, add in as much of the milk as you need to bring the frosting to a thick drizzle consistency. Drizzle over the cooled cake. Sprinkle with the remaining crushed candy canes. 


  1. I agree totally. I don't give money online because I am skeptical too. I give money to several charities in my area, but I just couldn't send money to someone like that.

    1. It's just so hard because, really, if some of these stories are true, I feel heartless not wanting to help. If only money grew on trees.

  2. Karen, I work in the financial services industry (not as a financial advisor) and I second everything you say. The story of your son's account gave me chills. We are trying to lock down all the accounts my late mother in law had, also. It's scary! And I've always been skeptical - I don't give online if I don't know the people personally, and I've only done that once. Therefore, time for cake. Alana

    1. Sadly, I'd bet that the accounts of those who have died and whose obituaries are public would be a prime target. I hope you get everything secured quickly.

  3. I rarely donate money online unless it is for someone I know on a GoFund Me site. But I feel your pain about the credit card thieves. It happened to us twice in one year and they wiped out our savings account as well. Luckily everything was refunded. What a nightmare!

    1. It is, it's such a nightmare. And I honestly can't believe people go that far to screw other people.

  4. I was intrigued by how you would answer this question. When I read it, all kinds of flashing lights went on. Then, reading your two part answer, I agree with you on all counts. I will not be intimidated into giving to someone or some cause for the sake of giving. I am careful and do my research. Yet, like you, I will pay for someone's groceries at the store if I feel I should as well as the other paying it forward examples you gave.

    That was a horror show regarding the hacked card and accounts. I wish I had been that fortunate. It amazes me how much effort and time 'crooks' put into their 'job' of robbing others.

    1. Honestly, the Amazon issue could have been way worse. It was PurDude's vigilance with that account that allowed him to catch the initial bogus order immediately, cancel all orders in his name and warn us. At the same time, our bank caught some questionable activity on College Boy's account. I hate how much effort these thieves used in order to try to screw us all, but I'm gratified that in the end they got absolutely nothing.

  5. I'm off Amazon right now. I lost fifty dollars worth of gifts cards to them and I was beyond upset. I love your bundt cake. I have amazing memories of all things Grandma. And her bundt cake ranks at the top of my list.

    1. Yeah, I wrote a whole post once before about the nightmare time I had dealing with Amazon last year. They have no customer service at all.

  6. I give to people or through my church. I stopped giving to charities as so many of them are for profit and makes millions but give so little. I've been burnt a few times so I'm more cautious than I used to be.

    1. I agree, if we're going to give, we want to be sure our money goes where we intend it to go.

  7. It's been fun to see the results of giving directly. I've done it by giving toys to kids with epidermolysis bullosa and Down's by buying off wishlists through an organization that posts for kids that belong, and I've helped people get their pet's meds or pizza in the group I'm in. I understand why people are so skeptical. I see it in the groups all the time--people will question endlessly and ask for as much proof as possible before donating--but I don't see me giving up on it any time soon :)

    1. I think we all have to find the ways we're comfortable giving. The point is, no matter how, to keep doing it. Something we're both committed to.


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