'Disgusting' scammer uses B.C. teen's cancer story to solicit donations
Published Sunday, December 21, 2014 1:05PM EST
It's a touching cover photo for a heartbreaking charity case: 18-year-old Kyle McConkey, hairless from his leukemia treatments, gets a kiss on the cheek from a pretty girl at a formal event. "$250,000 needed by December 10th to save Kyle's life," says the headline on the crowdfunding site YouCaring.com.
Browse around the site a bit and you might find the photo again -- only this time attached to a $150,000 fundraiser for "Kyle McKlusky."
Same picture. Similar story. Different beneficiary.
Police say the McKlusky page is the work of a scammer who's been using the real B.C. teen's cancer case to solicit personal donations for a fake cause. The scammer promoted the fake campaign on social media and raised $372 before police had the page shut down and an associated Twitter account suspended.
Another fake page has since gone up and been taken down.
"Our concern is that people are going to give money thinking they're giving to a genuine site, and in fact, they're giving to fake scammers," Sgt. Sarah Swallow, of the Delta Police, said. "That somebody feels they can piggyback on this and take money is just disgusting."
Delta Police posted a cautionary message about the scam on their Facebook page Friday night.
"On the apparently fake site, the names and some spelling are wrong but close enough that anyone not familiar with this story could be duped," the post says. "This SaveKylesLife.org (website) is in no way related to the McConkey family."
The real Kyle McConkey is in hospital, recovering from a viral infection after an experimental stem cell transplant.
"He wishes he could just be at home with his family," said Kyle's father, Ross McConkey. "He understands the risks, but he sees the benefit of living."
The Tsawwassen teen was being treated for his leukemia at the B.C. Children's Hospital last month when doctors told him his days were numbered.
"He asked the question, 'How much longer do I have to live? How many months?'" Ross McConkey recalls. "And the doctor said: 'Kyle, you just have weeks.'"
That's when the McConkeys put out their call on YouCaring.com, asking for $250,000 in donations before Dec. 10 to give their son a shot at life.
"We will sell our house if we have to, but this means taking our home away from our three children and this would be very hard to do to our family," they posted on the site. "We want nothing more than to save our son Kyle's life."
People responded to the plea, and the real McConkey campaign has raised almost $282,000 to date.
The elder McConkey says his family is tremendously grateful for all the support they received through their crowdsourcing campaign. "I've said it a hundred times. I don't have words for it. It's amazing. It's given hope beyond belief to my family," he said
But Ross McConkey is also upset that someone is using his son's dire health problems to dupe kind-hearted people out of their money.
"This is serious to us," he said. "It's my son. We don't want his images to be used like that."
Kyle McConkey originally hoped to be out of the hospital in time for Christmas, but his medical complications are expected to keep him there until at least Jan. 5.
Meantime, Delta Police are warning social media users not to be fooled by the scammer trying to cash in on Kyle's cancer battle.
RE: Tswn teen Kyle McConkey fundraising, a scam acct (@SaveKyle_Now) has popped up w/links to fundraiser acct that appears to be fake. 1/2— Delta Police (@deltapolice) December 20, 2014
@SaveKyle_Now twitter acct has been suspended & the fundraising page is now "not active". Still a cpl of spam accts active but clearly fakes— Delta Police (@deltapolice) December 21, 2014
With files from CTV Vancouver