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Universities and companies fall for Gary Richards cancer appeal hoax

UK Fundraising has received photocopies of headed paper from organisations that have fallen for and prolonged the Gary Richard cancer chain letter.

The photocopies represent organisations who have sent business cards to ‘Gary Richards’, who “is just seven years old and has terminal cancer.” Apparently, young Gary’s ambition “is to be entered into the Guinness Book of Records for the largset collection of business cards.”

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.


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Organisations that have fallen for the hoax and whose staff have gladly forwarded it to 10 other companies of their choice, as instructed by the hoax message, include:

  • Development Office, University of Nottingham
  • Development Office, University of Bath
  • Open University Educational Enterprises Ltd
  • Beneficial Bank
  • Institute for Supervision and Management
  • The Careassist Group Ltd
  • Independent Union of Halifax Staff
  • Nationwide Staff Association
  • Company Magazine
  • Estee Lauder
  • Boots The Chemists, Peterborough
  • Marks & Spencer, Peterborough
  • Performance Matters
  • Countdown plc
  • British Sugar
  • Farm Fed
  • Anstruthers Consultancy
  • Initiative Media
  • The National Magazine Consultancy Ltd

    Each of the above sent the message to at least 10 other organisations, so you can imagine the scale that this hoax is now operating at.

    Does it matter? It matters to fundraisers for two reasons. First, such appeals, particularly now that they are being perpetrated by e-mail, could hinder future legitimate uses of e-mail appeals by fundraisers. Secondly, some of these hoaxes mention genuine charities, who have to waste energy and resources handling the thousands of compliment slips or business cards that gullible people around the world send in in the mistaken belief that they are helping.

    A more positive spin on this phenomenon is that, if this many people are willing to go to this much trouble to help a child, then fundraisers should be able to channel this support into something more practical.


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