Tragedy brings the best, and the worst, out in people.

As journalists, it is something we see a lot of when covering major events.

When the Christchurch shootings happened, New Zealanders all over this country rallied together to say "no" to racism and support our Muslim brothers and sisters. When Whakaari/White Island erupted on December 9, the nation mourned with our local and international communities as the names of the dead and injured came through.

Vigils were held. Money raised. Candles lit. People were remembered and honoured. This compassion was mirrored, if not led, by local and national leaders and we as a country celebrated that.


Such heart is a beautiful part of what makes us Kiwis – standing up for the little guy.

But as with most things, there's a flipside.

As reported today, someone has used the death of Whakatāne nurse Sheila Cheng to create a fake crowdfunding page.

Cheng had been taking a few hours' respite from treating Whakaari victims when she was involved in a crash near Rotorua. Her death was tragic enough. Having someone take advantage of other people's grief and goodwill by exploiting her memory makes it so very much worse.

Yet as despicable as this con is, it is a strong reminder to exercise caution when donating money. Just because someone has set up a page for a charitable cause, it doesn't mean it is legitimate.

I had this thought last month, watching online thousands of dollars flow towards Australian bush fire appeals. As those fires burned, dozens of different crowdfunding pages popped up. Some seemed valid. Others were to me suspiciously more than vague in detailing how, where or when donations would be distributed. Yet, the money continued to flow from well-meaning Kiwis wanting to do their bit.

I was perplexed.

Have we become a society so hung up on wanting to do "our bit" in times of crisis that common sense just goes out the door? If so, it's of no surprise that scammers would come in for a feeding frenzy at the first chance.


It's time we readjusted our goodwill barometer. It is noble to give to others in need, but I believe we need to be smarter.

Scammers preying on the memory of a dead woman who did so much good for others are, in my opinion, bottom-feeding scum who have no place in society.

Let's not make it so easy for them.