There is a long tradition of hoaxsters transmitting untrue stories about the suffering of victims of cancer, either to raise money, to harvest valid email addresses, or to cause trouble.[1][2][3][4]

List of alleged cancer victimsEdit

alleged victim 1st year active notes
Jessica Vega 2010
Jennifer Dibble (Rubio) 2003
  • 29-year-old Faked terminal lung and kidney cancer for donations, free trips and sympathy.[13]
Ashley Kirilow 2009
Martha Nicholas 1999
Jessica Ann Leeder 2010
Keele Maynor 2003
"Jessica Mydek" 1997
  • The letter from "Jessica Mydek" represented itself as a letter from a 7-year-old girl with terminal brain cancer, but the American Cancer Society determined there was no such child.[25][26][27]
  • The Jessica Mydek letter requested recipients to forward the letter as widely as possible among their friends and acquaintances, and include a bogus email address on the carbon copy list, that they claimed was that of the American Cancer Society. The email addresses on the carbon copy list were subsequently sold to other online fraudsters.
"Tamara Martin"
  • The Tamara Martin chain letter tells recipients that Dave Matthews, of the Dave Matthews Band, will send his American Online screen name to them to reward them for forwarding Tamara's story to their friends.[25][28] The letter reports that Tamara has six months to live.
"Amy Bruce" 1997
  • The Amy Bruce chain letter claimed little Amy was "suffering from lung cancer due to second hand smoke and a large brain tumor due to repeated beatings."[28][29][30]
  • Versions of the Amy Bruce chain letter have been circulating from as early as 1997.[31]
Brigid A. Corcoran 2010
"Jonathan Jay White" 2009
Craig John[35]
Craig Shelford[4][36]
Craig Shelton[35]
Craig Sheford[36]
Craig Sheppard[37]
Craig Sherford[36]
Craig Sherwood[36]
Gary Richard[35]
  • In the 1980s a boy named Craig Shergold suffering from cancer, requested the publics' help him to get listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the receipient of the highest volume of get well cards.[25] He was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.[38] Shergold did win his listing in the record book, after receiving over one and a quarter million cards, and his cancer went into remission.[39] Unfortunately his story was so compelling and capable of capturing public sympathy, that he continued to get such a large volume of mail that it was a burden.[36] Attempts to convince the public Shergold was in remission, and no longer needed or wanted more cards were in effect.
  • By 1992 variant chain letters modeled after Shergold's original sincere chain letter campaign started to circulate.[39][40][41][42][43][44] These chain letters no longer requested get well cards -- they request business card. Security analysts asserted the letters were being to harvest names and phone numbers of credulous individuals for a sucker list, who could later be targeted by telemarketers or con artists.[36]
  • Variant of this hoax chain letter were still circulating in 2006.[37]


  1. Hossein Bidgoli (2006). Handbook of information security, Volume 3. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-471-22201-9. Retrieved 2010-08-27. "virus hoaxes ask you to help others by disseminating information. Cancer victim hoaxes ask you to generate mony for medical research by forwarding identical messages. However the common aim in each case is not to inform, to improve society, or even to sell a product: it is (purely or primarily) self-replicative." 
  2. "Guests Separate Truth From Urban Legend". CNN. 2001-02-03. Retrieved 2010-08-27.  mirror
  3. "Don't forward these e-mails - they're not legit". Soo Today. 2007-04-17. Retrieved 2010-08-27.  mirror
  4. 4.0 4.1 Theresa Heyd (2008). Email Hoaxes: Form, Function, Genre Ecology. John Benjamins Publishing. pp. 34, 40, 62, 84, 86, 87, 88, 89, 93, 95, 96, 179,. ISBN 9789027254184. Retrieved 2013-06-10. 
  5. Doyle Murphy (2010-09-06). "Bride's 'Till death do us part' story was false, husband says: He disputes wife's claims she was dying". Times Herald Record. Retrieved 2012-04-11. "Now O'Connell says his wife, Jessica Vega, had pretended — saying she had terminal leukemia in order to scam him, everyone they knew and a long list of strangers who heard her story and wanted to help."  mirror
  6. "Ex-New York woman charged with faking cancer for wedding". Fox News. 2012-04-10. Retrieved 2012-04-11. "According to the indictment, Vega accepted thousands of dollars in donated services and goods after claiming in 2010 that she was dying of leukemia. The newspaper ran a story on Vega's wedding wish."  mirror
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Tricked: Husband says wife faked cancer for free goodies". MSNBC. 2010-09-07. Retrieved 2012-04-11.  mirror
  8. "Jessica Vega, 'Fake Cancer Bride', Is Back With Her Ex-Husband". Huffington Post. 2012-06-08. Retrieved 2013-06-08. 
  9. Alice Gomstyn (2012-06-07). "‘Cancer Bride’ Alleges Accomplice But Won’t ‘Snitch’". ABC News. Archived from the original on 2012-06-08. Retrieved 2013-06-08. "In her first broadcast interview, Jessica Vega told “20/20″ co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas that a friend forged letters from doctors about her supposed cancer treatments and that Vega signed them." 
  10. Madeleine Davies (2012-06-08). "Fake Cancer Bride Is Soooo Sorry for Faking Cancer". Archived from the original on 2013-06-08. 
  11. Dalina Castellanos (2012-05-23). "Fake-cancer bride has done her time: She's sentenced, released". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2013-06-08. "The bride accused of duping her family, friends and community into thinking she had terminal cancer -- and receiving a dream wedding, honeymoon and gifts because of it -- was sentenced to time served Wednesday and released after two months in jail." 
  12. Christina Ng (2012-04-10). "Bride Who Faked Cancer to Score Dream Wedding, Honeymoon Is Charged". ABC News. Archived from the original on 2012-06-23. Retrieved 2013-06-08. "A generous New York bridal shop owner never questioned the heartbreaking story of a woman who claimed to have cancer and wanted to marry before she died. The bride's story opened the hearts and wallets of her community who donated thousands of dollars to pay for her wedding and honeymoon." 
  14. Kim Carolco (2010-08-12). "Are Cancer Fraudsters Desperate or Psychopathic?". ABC News. Retrieved 2010-08-18. "In an interview with the Toronto Star, she admitted to the hoax and said she did it to get attention and to get back at her family for her unhappy childhood."  mirror
  15. Joanne Richard (2010-08-18). "Accused cancer faker isn't alone". Toronto Sun. Retrieved 2010-08-18. "“Although there is clear evidence in the Kirilow case of malingering - lying about illness to get money – I would bet that the principal motive was an intangible one: to get attention, nurturance, care and concern that she felt unable to get in other ways.”"  mirror
  16. Brendan Kennedy (2010-08-06). "Woman faked cancer to raise money". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2010-03-16. "Skate4Cancer’s involvement with Ms. Kirilow was based solely on fulfilling what the organization believed to be a legitimate final wish from a terminally ill individual."  mirror
  17. Kevin Gallagher (2010-08-19). "Ashley Kirilow, accused cancer faker, allegedly fielding death threats". National Post. Retrieved ~~~. "In an email to the National Post, Jeordie White, a friend of Ms. Kirilow’s, said: “I’ve been defending her at Facebook groups were Template:Sic demanding her head and uttering death threats towards her.”"  mirror
  18. 18.0 18.1 Timothy Stenovec (2011-12-11). "Martha Nicholas, 42, Arrested After Allegedly Faking Cancer To Raise Money (VIDEO)". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2012-06-10. ""Our investigation revealed no evidence of any cancer treatment at any medical facility that had been publicly identified by Martha Nicholas during her many public appearances and testimonials," said Capt. Michael J. Trice of the timothy StenovecCounty Sheriff's Office, according to the Mechanicsville Local." 
  19. "‘Fake’ cancer victim’s husband: ‘She’s not an evil woman’". CBS. 2011-12-11. Retrieved 2013-6-11. 
  20. "Timmins woman accused of faking cancer to get money". Timmins Times. 2010-11-07. Archived from the original on 2010-11-07. "The story is similar to that of Ashley Anne Kirilow, a Southern Ontario woman who earlier this year admitted to police she faked cancer symptoms and collected more than $7,000 from sympathetic friends and supporters. The case shocked and upset many people, especially those with friends and family members truly struggling with cancer." 
  21. "Second woman accused of faking cancer for money". Toronto Sun. 2010-11-07. Archived from the original on 2010-11-07. "In August another Ontario woman was caught scamming hundreds of people out of a total of $7,400 by pretending to have cancer. Twenty-three-year-old Ashley Anne Kirilow from Burlington pled guilty to one count of fraud over $5,000 last week." 
  22. "Second Ontario woman alleged to have faked cancer". CTV News. 2010-11-06. Archived from the original on 2010-11-07. "The arrest comes days after Ashley Kirilow, of Burlington, admitted in court that she faked terminal cancer and kept thousands of dollars from sympathetic donors." 
  23. Tobi Cohen (2010-11-06). "Second Ont. woman accused of faking cancer for the money". Vancouver Sun. Archived from the original on 2010-11-07. "Days after a woman admitted in court that she faked cancer to play on the sympathies of those around her and cheat them out of their money, police in Ontario are accusing yet another young woman of the running the same scam." 
  24. "Timmins, Ont., woman pleads guilty for fraud after faking cancer". Kingston Whig. 2010-11-09. Retrieved 2012-06-09. "A northern Ontario woman who claimed to have cancer and collected fundraising money for treatment has pleaded guilty to fraud over $5,000." 
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 "Caught up in chain mail". The Guardian. 2001-02-01. Retrieved 2010-08-27.  mirror
  26. Ivar Peterson (1997-07-14). "Chain E-Mail: Heart-Rending Pleas Are Sometimes Counterfeit". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-27. "It seemed like such a heartfelt appeal: Jessica Mydek, only 7 years old and dying of cancer, sending out an electronic-mail message urging readers to live their lives more fully and, by the way, to pass her letter on to as many other E-mail recipients as possible, so that the American Cancer Society and several corporate sponsors would each contribute 3 cents toward cancer research for every message forwarded."  mirror
  27. "Jessica Mydek or Jean Ann Linney Cancer Email Hoax". Consumer fraud reporting. Retrieved 2010-08-27.  mirror
  28. 28.0 28.1 Shanida Smith (2000-08-17). "Watch out for hoax e-mails". Kingport Daily News.,5494516&dq=tamara-martin+cancer+hoax&hl=en. Retrieved 2010-08-27. "One e-mail claims that Dave Matthews, front man for the Dave Matthews Band, will send his American Online screen name to everyone who forwards an e-mail about Tamara Martin, who has six months to live." [dead link]
  29. Mark Harrison (2005-09-13). "Internet hoaxes hurt real efforts". Dekalb Times Journal. Retrieved 2010-08-27. "But there IS hope, Amy says. “The Make-A-Wish Foundation has agreed to donate 7 cents for every forwarded e-mail. For those of you who send this along, I thank you so much, but for those who don’t sent it, what goes around comes around.” There’s only one problem – it’s an elaborate hoax. Little Amy Bruce doesn’t even exist." 
  30. Michael Rothfeld (2000-02-23). "E-mail Tales Not Always True". Newsday. p. 23. Retrieved 2010-08-27. "The Amy Bruce message first appeared about three years ago in connection with the American Cancer Society and targeted the Make A Wish Foundation..." 
  31. "Starship "tarnished" by hoax email". TVNZ. Oct 28, 2007. Retrieved 2010-08-27. "Auckland's Starship Hospital is distancing itself from a hoax email appealing for support for a dying child... The email reads, "Hi my name is Amy Bruce. I am seven years old and have severe lung cancer... I also have a large tumour in my brain from repeated beatings."" 
  32. Ayinde O. Chase (2010-08-21). "Police: Central N.Y. Woman Faked Cancer As Money-Making Scam". All Headline News. Retrieved 2010-08-27. "Corcoran, the recipient of thousands of dollars from a July 25 benefit held at Damon’s Banquet Hall in Cicero, reportedly broke down under questioning and confessed to faking being cancer stricken."  mirror
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 "Idaho woman accused in cancer scam found dead". IDAHO FALLS, Idaho: KXNET. 2009-07-24. Retrieved 2010-08-28. "A 24-year-old woman who allegedly ran a cancer donation scam that netted her thousands of dollars and gifts from celebrities has been found dead of an apparent suicide. Officials say Melissa Ann Rice, of Ammon, Idaho, apparently committed suicide days after a charge of grand theft by fraud was filed against her. Her body was found Wednesday in her car."  mirror
  34. 34.0 34.1 "Cyclist Armstrong 'Fell For Teen Cancer Hoax'". Sky News. 2009-07-21. Retrieved 2010-08-28. "The champion athlete said today he received "seriously disturbing news" suggesting Jonathan Jay White did not exist. He believed him to be a 15-year-old seriously ill with brain cancer."  mirror
  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 "Universities and companies fall for Gary Richards cancer appeal hoax - See more at:". UK Fundraising. 1996-05-20. Retrieved 2013-06-11. "Unfortunately, Gary Richards does not exist. The appeal is a hoax, as are the similar appeals in the name of Craig Shergold, Craig John, Craig Shelton and others. - See more at:" 
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 36.3 36.4 36.5 Zachary R. Dowdy (1994-11-04). "Cancer survivor hopes to break chain of letters: Flood of business cards overwhelms youth, agencies". Boston: Boston Globe. Retrieved 2013-06-11. ""The point we'd like to get across is that Craig has had his wish, and it's his wish now -- and others' -- that people stop sending cards to him," said Linda Dozoretz, Fairy Godmother at the Atlanta-based Children's Wish Foundation." 
  37. 37.0 37.1 Karl Terry (2006-01-14). "Craig Sheppard: Ah, we meet again". Portales News Tribune. Retrieved 2013-06-11. "It’s a hoax, of course. Craig Sheppard is not a real person but the chain letter that created him has kept him the same age with a terminal illness for a a decade and a half." 
  38. "Craig Shergold". Snopes. Retrieved 2011-12-28.  mirror
  39. 39.0 39.1 "Attorney General warns against chain letter scam". Madison, Wisconsin: Milwaukee Journal. 1992-06-10. p. 53.,942279&dq=cancer+hoax+sucker+list&hl=en. Retrieved 2013-06-11. "Doyle believes the business cards are being used to create a "sucker" list for telemarketers." 
  40. Michelle Williams (1993-05-29). "Pleas for young cancer victim hoax". Chatanooga: Times Daily. p. 5.,4149868. Retrieved 2013-06-11. "Some officials say the letter is a ploy to create "sucker" mailing and telemarketing lists. Others say it's a misinformed, outdated request that won't die. All agree it should stop." 
  41. Mitch Lipka (2001-03-11). "Helpful Folks Taken In By Hoax". Sun Sentinel. Retrieved 2013-06-08. "Shergold also unwittingly created one of the most enduring urban legends. It travels by chain letter and e-mail and just won't go away." 
  42. David Harley (2011-10-31). "Facebook Sympathy Hoax: No Surprises". We live security. Retrieved 2013-06-08. "Even though the Make-a-Wish Foundation, which never had anything to do with the appeal in the first place, had to point out on its web site that it has no connection with the many chain-messages that feature sick children and claim to be associated with the Foundation. It even gives a list of some of the names of children mentioned in such messages. And sure enough, several of them are variations on the name of Craig Shergold that we associate with full-hoax variations on the original chain-letter, many of which decided that he wanted business cards or compliments slips rather than get-well cards." 
  43. W. Winston Skinner (2009-11-24). "Sick boy's request sounds similar to Shergold hoax". Times Herald. Retrieved 2013-06-08. "Shergold got well, but the story about the cards continues to circulate -- and to change. Sometimes his name became Craig Shelford, Craig Shelton or Craig Sheppard. Sometimes another child's name was used." 
  44. Gail De Vos (1996). Tales, Rumors, and Gossip: Exploring Contemporary Folk Literature in Grades 7-12. Libraries Unlimited. pp. 59-60. ISBN 9781563081903. Retrieved 2013-06-08. "Ann Landers addressed the issue of the request for business cards in a column published June 23, 1991. She warned her readers not to send business cards as "they can fall into the wrong hands and become part of the mother of all mailing lists. Sharp-eye scan perpetrators, always on the alert for suckers, may figure if you'd fall for this, you'd fall for anything""