GoFundMe refunds money to donors after being lied to by poker player

Category: Human Interest


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. diagnosis / ˌdaɪ əgˈnoʊ sɪs / (n.) – a conclusion that explains or describes the reason for a disease or an illness after examining it

    The doctor explained the diagnosis to the patient and discussed the different treatments available.

  2. misuse / mɪsˈyus / (n.) – the incorrect or illegal way of using something

    He was brought to the emergency room because of drug misuse.

  3. swift / swɪft / (adj.) – happening or done quickly

    The manager expects his staff to always send a swift reply to urgent messages.

  4. exploit / ɪkˈsplɔɪt / (v.) – to use something or someone in an unfair way for one’s benefit

    He exploited our kindness by constantly borrowing money from us without paying us back.

  5. undiagnosed / ˌʌnˈdaɪ əɡ noʊsd / (adj.) – not recognized or identified through diagnosis

    He has been experiencing some symptoms for years, but his illness remains undiagnosed.


Read the text below.

The fundraising platform GoFundMe said it has refunded money to donors after a poker player admitted to lying about a terminal cancer diagnosis and accepted thousands of dollars in donations so he could play in a World Series of Poker tournament in Las Vegas.

GoFundMe said it has also banned Rob Mercer from the platform and removed the poker player’s fundraising campaign from its website.

“GoFundMe has zero tolerance for the misuse of our platform and takes swift action against those who exploit the generosity of our community,” the company said in an emailed statement to The Associated Press.

Mercer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal he made up a stage 4 colon cancer diagnosis for his GoFundMe page in June, the newspaper reported.

The California resident was trying to raise enough funds to meet the $10,000 buy-in for the No-limit Hold’em World Championship. He received contributions worth between $30,000 and $50,000, including a stay at a suite in the Bellagio. Even a fellow player from Arizona who suffers from chronic illness donated $2,500.

“I’m sorry for not being honest about what my situation was,” Mercer said. “If I would have done that from Day One, who knows what would have happened.”

Las Vegas police didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry about whether an investigation has been opened into Mercer. GoFundMe said in its statement it would cooperate with a law enforcement investigation.

However, the 37-year-old said he would not be refunding anyone because he believes he has undiagnosed breast cancer.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • How do you think the fraud committed by Rob Mercer on the GoFundMe platform will affect donors and other fundraisers? Discuss.
  • Mercer said he would not be refunding anyone because he believes he has undiagnosed breast cancer. Do you think it’s okay to ask for donations for undiagnosed diseases? Why or why not? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • GoFundMe said that it has zero tolerance for the misuse of its platform and that it takes swift action against those who exploit the generosity of its community. Why do you think the company had to give users this assurance (ex. to maintain trust, to protect its reputation)? Discuss.
  • If you were a donor, how would you make sure that the fundraising you’re donating to is legitimate or true? Discuss.