Money for Nothing

Hopeful beggars shake their virtual cups online

After three months on the site, Angel of Dallas raised $5,000 for her surgery, which she had in early April. After giving birth to her daughter, the 20-year-old had been unhappy with her breasts.

"Before I had my daughter, I always wanted to be a cheerleader," she says from Dallas. "And it's kind of intimidating to look at the pictures of the girls that are cheerleaders now, that most of them are pretty full and have great bodies. And I figured that, you know, why not? I want to look great, too."

She says she's trying out in October to be a cheerleader for the Desperados, Dallas's Arena Football League team. She also hopes to try out for the Cowboys one day.

Benefactors have also found other ways to donate to all the fake-boob-minded women out there. In 2003, a fellow calling himself Hugh Jass launched www.pimpingthepoor.com as a way to kill two birds with one stone. Hugh and his friends claim to have an annoying boss named Kurt Smith. They also enjoy fake-boob-cyberbegging sites. So they contacted the cyberbeggars and offered them a few bucks if they would model skimpy garments on their own sites that read "Kurt Smith Sucks." In some cases, it's been a hit.

A 22-year-old Pasadena woman who calls herself Brandi was featured on PimpingThePoor.

She originally solicited on eBay, seeking donations to start a business, although she didn't know what type of business she wanted. In an e-mail interview with the Press, Brandi explained that she "wanted to be 'the next Martha Stewart,' just a little more sexy."

She says her eBay ad was initially a joke, but "donations flooded in so I just went with it from there. I didn't do it to get rich or so I could be lazy. I just wanted to start my business and the banks are not so helpful getting a young girl a loan, so I asked the world to help."

She ultimately decided to install Webcams in her home and launch her own pay Web site. She says she raised $4,000 and also had donations of software and other equipment. Her biggest single donations were $700 and $500. (Brandi preferred an e-mail interview because she's "shy.")

Launched in November 2005, www.brandilive.com shows its namesake in various states of dress sitting on various surfaces. It also shows her with her fiancé and her dog, Starla. Brandi declined to reveal how much money she's made from the site, which is only one of her endeavors -- she says she also has an online jewelry store.

She believes she would have raised more money from her eBay ad, but she stopped as soon as she had enough to launch her site. And also, "my mom called me an Internet panhandler and bag lady, so I started feeling a little guilty :D."

Hugh Jass believes Brandi's is a rare success story. Also choosing to communicate only via e-mail, Jass writes, "Cyberbegging doesn't work. I'm not sure it ever has (there are only two or three success stories that I know of -- most of the other successes you hear about actually got bailed out another way). For every site that makes a few bucks, there are dozens that are just a waste of time. You're most likely to make some money if you have a sick pet or you want boobs. Christmas-related stories sometimes get you a few dollars. Overall, most people reading the sites figure they're a scam and most of the time they're probably right."


But, as McConatha says, some people just like to give away money. It makes them feel good.

Those people have a friend in cyberbeggars, who make it easy to sift through countless pleas until the benefactor finds a cause close to his or her heart. And since even highly respected charities like United Way and the American Red Cross have found themselves scrutinized for questionable money management, cutting out the middleman might not be a bad idea, he says.

"It's an ideological shift we're undergoing...that we can avoid all these intermediate steps which may or may not be beneficial," McConatha says. "If we can avoid that, why not do that? And find people that we feel like need our attention? And it makes people feel good to give money away, you know. They become the Andrew Carnegies and the Henry Fords just by giving $10 out to someone that might need a basket of groceries."

So Clay Chastain might very well find a benefactor who appreciates classic cars. Or if that isn't your thing, there are always stories involving the critically ill, and Claudia McNeely's site fills the bill. The only difference is, she claims her Web site might make her losemoney.

McNeely, of the small East Texas town of Gilmer, hasn't updated www.helpsamanthalive.com in more than a year. She launched the site in 2005 as a way to cover health care for her critically ill daughter, now 22. McNeely says Medicaid pays enough for a nurse to watch Samantha for seven hours a day. But she says her daughter's Medicaid would be cut if she reported any additional income. So she's kept the site up, but she says she's not "promoting" it.

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