• Sat, Nov 30 - 2:59 pm ET

Shameful Author Of Viral ‘Thoughts On Poverty’ Essay Is Allegedly A Liar But Is Still Racking In Donations

poverty essay scam

GoFundMe

There must be something in the water, because stories about scam viral fund-raising schemes are everywhere this week.First there was the waitress from New Jersey who is being accused of lying about discrimination, and now this alleged poverty essay scam. Remember that beautiful essay from writer Linda Walther Tirado about the perils of poverty, “Why I Make Terrible Decisions,” or “Poverty Thoughts”? Well, as touching as it was, media sources are now claiming that it was all a lie to garner attention and donations.

I first read the essay on Tirado’s Kinja page, and I will admit I was moved. It was portrayed to the reader as a look at Tirado’s life as a poverty stricken mom of two, supposedly living in seedy, roach infested motels with no place to cook for her family, forcing them to live off of junk food. Tirado also claimed that she was working two jobs and going to college to try to better her life. She described being banished to the back of the kitchen at one job due to her insightly teeth, which she wasn’t able to fix due to being so very, very poor. The whole thing reminded me of a Dickens novel. And the worst part is, it’s reportedly all lies.

Tirado, known as “KillerMartinis” online, is apparently not poor at all. Actually, not only is she “not poor,” but she attended a posh boarding school and had a relatively wealthy upbringing. This wouldn’t be so bad (I would guess that 2/3 of everyone you encounter online is full of shit) if she wasn’t also collecting donations to alleviate her made up woes on GoFundMe.com.

Of course, now that the cat if out of the bad, Tirado is backtracking like you wouldn’t believe. As well she should be, as she didn’t even try to hide her lies that well. A quick look at her LinkedIn profile reveals that she’s been a political consultant (admittedly a freelance one) since 2010, and has been active in politics since 2004. A claim that is backed up by numerous connections on the site. Sure doesn’t sound like degrading kitchen work to me. Here is a screenshot of her explanation, straight from Kinja:

poverty essay scam

Kinja

She also owns a home, a fact that in and of itself wouldn’t negate her claims of poverty (plenty of homeowners find themselves impoverished later on) but it certainly makes her claims of living in seedy hotels seem far-fetched.And none of this (easily accessed) information is mentioned in her recent disclaimer, or the subsequent ones.

poverty essay scam

Kinja

To date, Tirado has received over $62,000 in donations via her GoFundMe page, the majority from people who most likely have no idea about the truth.

I’m not trying to say that someone with a privileged upbringing can’t possible understand poverty, though there is certainly an argument to be made there. What I’m saying is that someone like Tirado cannot and should not try to be a spokesperson for the issue. I hope people stop sending her money now that the info is out. And I hope she grows a conscience and donates the money to ACTUAL people in need. But I won’t hold my breath.

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  • Alicia Kiner

    So let me get this straight.. There’s a place online where you can post your story and people donate to you? I wonder if this would work for things like kidney, liver, bone marrow. Things that people are dying in need of. Hmm.

    • FaintlyXMacabre
    • Véronique Houde

      I used the site to raise money for my best friend’s husband, who was left in financial ruin after a lost battle with brain cancer ended in her death. It worked pretty well!

  • keelhaulrose

    It makes me sad that this woman is a liar. I loved her piece.
    I grew up solidly middle class in a richer area. I sometimes felt more appreciative of what I had because it didn’t get replaced if I messed it up. I was given a teen year old minivan on my 16th birthday because my parents didn’t want to drive my brother and sister around anymore, and I was told if I refused to chauffeur the car would be gone. I had a friend who received three different brand-new cars in her first year of driving, each for a different reason.
    But I’m poor now. As in, I’m not working, my husband is a mechanic at a chain store, my dad isn’t working, my mother is (we live with my parents and my brother). We’re all pretty much going paycheck to paycheck at this point. Every time we save up something major seems to happen. It sucks, but I’m lucky. We don’t want for food, clothing, or shelter. My daughter is going to a good school. We may not have discretionary income, but we don’t have to worry about a lot of things.
    People love to think getting out of poverty is easy. Get a good job (because they’re falling like leaves off a tree), go to school (because it’s free), you’re only poor because you’re lazy. That’s not true. Some of the hardest working people are poor, and it takes more than sweat equity to make things better.

    • Belle

      She’s basically some overweight loser who blogs and makes GIFs with strangers on the internet. She’s been scamming people out of money on kinja for a month, and her family long before that.

      The rest of us suckers have to work.

    • jmuns79

      Let’s not bring her weight into it. We don’t want to turn into a youtube comment section.

  • angus young

    I just read her rambling response and instead of owning up to her lies she is trying to rationalize them. How infuriating

    • belle

      Amen.

      Reminds me of a 5 year-old who rambles on with more lies to cover up the first big lie.

    • chase

      My Uncle Jacob recently got cream Toyota Matrix from only workin on a pc… more info here

    • chase
  • Human Target

    It’s crap like this that makes people weary about donating to charity now a days.

    • Hereshoping Themayanswereright

      I know I feel the same way. Luckily the donations were closed by the time I read the piece. This is going to make a lot of people lose their trust in other humans. I know I sure have.

  • elle

    This is why I would never donate to someone on the internet. Too easy to lie/exaggerate. Pretty disgusting.

  • FF4life

    My parents are very well off but I am not. Their money is not my money. I personally own a home… Or do on paper anyway. I left the house because of my abusive exhusband. That house is in foreclosure now.

    I can sympathize with her. Just because you grew up privileged doesn’t mean you can’t fall into poverty. I don’t really trust news reports debunking things… They rarely tell the whole story… Just what will sell better.

    • Frances Locke

      Well, I do say that just because you own a home, that doesn’t mean you’re well off or can’t become impoverished. The point is that she was dishonest about her story. She talks about being poor as if she was always poor. And from very easily accessed sources online (LinkedIn, her own personal WordPress blog) it seems that she isn’t poor now either. Is it really so far fetched to think someone would lie to get money online?

  • jessica

    Though I do think you have some valid points, ie. that Ms. Tirado perhaps could have been more upfront about her current situation since she seems to be in a more stable place now than in previous year, I still think you’re being a little too harsh. The Nation actually met with Ms. Tirado and also interviewed several of her former employers who verified her past experiences. One, who was her supervisor when she worked on a political campaign several years ago, even discussed her teeth holding her back professionally:
    “Having messed-up teeth is not something that normally gets you a professional job, even though she’s really smart, capable and competent,” says Clayton, the field director for an Ohio Democratic congressional campaign she worked on. “It’s probably why she wasn’t more successful long-term in the business.”

    So, it seems to me that her story isn’t a complete scam. Her story, for me at least, also raises another important issue that many of us fail to take in to account: the simple fact that our station in life isn’t necessarily permanent and can easily change at any time due to one misfortune or another. True, she may have started out with a private school education and music lessons and other advantages like that but still none of those things guaranteed her a stable and secure future. Similarly, I remember reading an article in the NYT Magazine a few months ago about homelessness that featured a middle aged woman who at one time had a successful landscaping business and her own home. If I’m remembering correctly, a sudden and persistent drop off in business related to the economic downturn eventually cost her her business and that combined with an illness cost her her house. She was then living out of her car and working odd jobs within 10 years after losing both. A sad and uncomfortable reality of life, but one that shouldn’t be overlooked or dismissed. (So sorry for the weird font change, but I can’t figure out how to fix it!)

    • jessica

      And I also wanted to add that Ms. Tirado did say that she planned to donate a large portion of the money she raised to non-profits that serve poverty stricken individuals. Of course I can’t say for sure if she means it, but she seemed sincere.

    • brebay

      A large portion? You mean she’s actually keeping some?

    • Blueathena623

      Yes, because she wants to write a book. Originally she put the limit at 10k. When she met that goal, she raised the limit. And raised it. And raised it. In one of her posts she says she might raise it to 100k, and if that it met, 150k.

    • jessica

      Yes. Large portion means she is planning on keeping some doesn’t it?

    • brebay

      thanks, douchecanoe…er….Jessica…er…Linda.

    • belle

      Yeah, sure. Her original essay “seemed sincere” to a lot of people, too. She’s only said so far on her Kinja page that she’s going to Vegas and buying herself a $1,000 dollar blanket for her bed.

    • jessica

      Cool. We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this, k?

    • belle

      I don’t tend to disagree with facts. If you want to, go for it.

    • jessica

      Problem is, I can’t find any reference to Vegas or $1000 blankets on her kinja page. Of course, I could be wrong but if you could provide some kind of link then I’d be more than willing to accept your “facts”

    • belle
    • Not that gullible

      Twenty bucks says, Jessica is the writer since she has commented on everyone’s posts.

    • belle

      Jessica’s vocabulary doesn’t match Linda’s, from what I can tell.

      Instead, what we’re dealing with is this lonely housewife in Utah who has a bizarrely dedicated group of online friends from GroupThink who she has unleashed all over these articles to defend her. What’s really weird is that they’ve never met and they’re all “friends” from some blog … that’s just….creepy and weird and junior high-ish.

    • brebay

      When I don’t want someone to know I wrote something, I try to spell a few words wrong too, though. Or at least mix up your and you’re, since anyone who knows me knows that’s a pet peeve.

    • Marilyn Duncan

      What’s wrong with going to Vegas? She’s been able to quit one of her jobs now, so she has time and maybe it’s been a while since she’s had a vacation. And she said she was going to take a thousand to do one of several options, one of which was get a blanket that fits the bed. Not that she was going to spend 1,000 on a blanket.
      I’m not validating her entire story, there’s too little evidence for that. The money she’s been given isn’t an astronomical sum…but it could make a big difference to her family. I don’t see the evidence that she’s a liar, either. Having a privileged upbringing doesn’t protect you from being working poor as an adult.

    • Belle

      Know the part where she updated her donations page after collecting 55k and said “I’m not poor”? That’s called lying. She wrote essay claiming she was destitute. She’s not. And her new video is ridiculous. First it was unsightly teeth that supposedly hindered her from advancing in her career. Now it’s “cracked molars.”
      From 4 million views of her essay to a mere 200 on her video … I’m hoping those numbers reflect the amount of people asking for their money back from her

    • belle

      How about looking at her first essay for some “evidence that she’s a liar”?

      “”I will never not be poor, so what does it matter if I don’t pay a thing and a half this week instead of just one thing? It’s not like the sacrifice will result in improved circumstances; the thing holding me back isn’t that I blow five bucks at Wendy’s. It’s that now that I have proven that I am a Poor Person that is all that I am or ever will be.”

      “Nobody gives enough thought to depression. You have to understand that we know that we will never not feel tired. We will never feel hopeful. We will never get a vacation. Ever. We know that the very act of being poor guarantees that we will never not be poor. It doesn’t give us much reason to improve ourselves.”

      She represents herself as poor in the present moment throughout. Then, after she collected $55,000, she snuck in a disclaimer saying she’s middle class.

    • belle
    • JustaGurlinseattle

      She said she was going to buy a blanket that FIT her bad, she never claimed to want to buy a $1,000 blanket…..

      Heck, I have money NOW, and own cashmere blankets and none of them cost $1,000 that is just CRAZY……

    • Belle

      I’m going to have to ignore you now and not respond any more. You’re refusing to acknowledge anything and only hellbent on defending a bogus story that, for whatever reason, you have a personal need to believe.

      You’ve wasted enough of my time, and because I’m one of those suckers that has to work tomorrow (as opposed to crowd funding a year’s salary), I don’t want To waste my last day off on this senseless back and forth with you.

    • jessica
    • Blueathena623

      No, I don’t agree. The Nation quotes one previous employer, and I believe it was when she was much younger. So she most likely had teeth damage, but there is no telling when she got them fixed. Her 2011 blog discusses her life as a field manager for some campaigns. The first post that shows up talks about paying for washing and folding at a laundromat used while she is on the campaign trail, and since laundromats won’t wash underwear, she tends to just throw is out. Another post discusses how she really wants to write a book about all her experiences. Oddly enough, now she also wants to write a book about all her experiences.
      Her piece very clearly uses the present tense and makes it sound like that was her current life. Its not ambiguous.
      She wants to be a writer. She’s stated that in past blogs and current articles. My guess is that she wants to quit her job and try writing, but she needed the funds.

    • Blueathena623

      Edit. No need to guess, she flat out stated it

      http://killer-martinis.squarespace.com/

      She wanted dental surgery and money to cover the bills while she wrote a book.

    • jessica

      Then we’ll have to agree to disagree on this. The Nation article did speak to more than one of her previous employers. Aside from that one issue, you’ve made good points. I just feel that her article does raise a number of important issues regardless.

    • belle

      How did they verify her employers’ identity? We’re all supposed to believe some guy named Clayton who she supposedly worked for some time way back when?
      Because they did such a *great* job of verifying Tirado’s story, they also must have done a bangup job verifying that her former employer is also a real person (and not just Tirado or one of her friends with a fake gmail address pretending to be someone else).

    • jessica

      Of course.

    • Belle

      Yes, because they have totally gone and verified Tirado’s story. Come on. They put a 20-something Brooklyn blogger on the story and the chick just communicated with linda over email.

    • Belle

      50 bucks says the book deal was a load of horse shit lies too

    • Frances Locke

      I think the “laundromats won’t wash underwear” claim that she made is so ridiculous. I worked at a laundromat while putting myself through college, and we most certainly did. I think she might just be a compulsive liar.

  • Joye77

    That’s so disgusting. There are plenty of us that would do about anything for an extra 50 bucks some days. I can’t tell you how many times I have counted change for gas in my van. I don’t have any wealthy family to borrow from. And then this lady comes along with a bunch of lies and gets more money than I could make in 2 years. Sick. These scammers piss me off.

    • Belle

      From day one her little fantasy-poverty essay has been an insult to those of us who have to watch every penny in order to survive.

      She’s a liar and a crappy writer.

  • DIAF

    While I typically refrain from wishing ill upon people, I sincerely hope karma makes this woman its bitch. She is as repulsive as she insinuated her (probably fictional) bad teeth are.

  • Paul White

    I don’t like Reagen but he said one good thing:
    “Trust but verify.”

    After 6-7 years in the social work world…if you can’t give me SOME evidence of a sob story, I just flat don’t believe it.

    • jessica

      Sometimes I really miss Ronald Reagan. I have a feeling the good old party would be very different if he were still around.

    • Educated

      Yeah, so, GOP stands for “Grand Old Party,” not “Good Old Party.”

    • Belle

      Lol.

    • jessica

      So sorry I didn’t catch my autocorrect error. Thanks for helping out!

    • Educated

      Yeah, right. “Autocorrect.” LOL

    • jessica

      Yes, honey, there are these things called cellular telephones that can be used to access the internet! Many of them have this magical program known as “autocorrect” which constantly insists on changing any words it deems odd into other words that the program deems less odd or more likely to be correct. It tries to be helpful but really it ends up being quite annoying. But I guess we can’t all be as perfect as you seem to think you are! Thanks again for your help!

    • Hereshoping Themayanswereright

      My phone does the same thing constantly. No need to defend yourself to the idiot.

    • brebay

      yeah, it’d be even more loony.

    • Emil

      please tell me the Reagen you speak of is your brother in law or something, I’d really want to upvote this but I can’t

  • Teleute

    Check out her plans to redecorate. “I am turning my kids’ room into a forest, because I own this house and I can.”

    http://groupthink.jezebel.com/dear-hivemind-1443909523

    So THAT’S why she needed the money! *slaps forehead*

  • kellymitch

    I slammed her original essay and people acted like I was the devil. There were major inconsistancies, yet everyone fawned all over her, apparently because they thought she was poor and since she could write a complete sentence, thought she was awesome.

    • Frances Locke

      I questioned her original post too, and was slammed. As someone who did grow up poor, I found her generalizations insulting, to say the least.

    • brebay

      I started wondering at impaling cockroaches on toothpicks, I’m pretty sure I saw it in a movie once…

  • Annona

    So I grew up really poor, and lived very poor for most of my young adult life, working shit jobs in kitchens and bars to put myself through school. At points of my life I have been so poor I lived in my car. When I left my field after experiencing extreme burn out, I lived in a ghetto apartment with no heat and barely functioning electricity, and I’ve rolled many a penny for gas and eaten food out of the dumpster. Now, my husband and I are doing well, we own our house, we own a business, and we’re not rich but I don’t have to sweat the bills or sell my plasma for grocery money. So, if I wrote a blog, or a book, about years living in poverty now that I’m no longer in poverty, would that make me a fake? If I talked about poverty now that I’m no longer experiencing it, would the fact that I’m no longer in poverty invalidate any insight that I gained all those years that I WAS barely making it? If she was writing about her experiences in the past, so what if she’s doing better for herself now? It might have been a blog post written from a journal post from many years ago. Writers do that, you know. And the fact that her parents have money means exactly shit…it also seems like she was estranged from them for a while. I know plenty of people whose parents had money who still had to scrape by either because their parents wouldn’t help them or because the “help” came with strings attached that they weren’t willing to tolerate.

    I mean, I get that people think it’s shady for her to fundraise, and it might be, but nobody put a gun to anyone’s head and made them donate to her, they did it because it was a super internet trend that people jumped on. If she gets a book deal out of it, good for her. Mostly, I find that whenever someone’s blog goes viral and they get money and recognition and a book deal out of it, the internet explodes with giant vats of hateraide, and this sounds like more of same. Don’t get mad, write a blog that someone wants to make a book out of.

    • Richard Vandiamondsworth

      You know the part about how you’re doing OK now? Turd-ado left THAT part out of her scam.

      It’s no different than someone asking you for money for an operation they desperately need, then informing you after you give them a buck, that the operation was having their tonsils removed when they were 12.

    • Annona

      What’s funny is, I’m not finding anything official about her being a scammer. I’m finding a lot of interviews with her, and a lot of venom being spewed in comments sections of various articles (lots of them with the same screen names that are here…hmmm) with a lot of speculation. The only thing I can find is that her parents were well off when she was a child. Which, I reiterate, means shit. I know plenty of poor people with well off parents.

      By what barometer are we judging her poorness? She’s too pretty in her picture? She painted her kid’s bedroom? She joked about taking a vacation? She bought a blanket? She quit her second job? Lots of people in the articles I’ve read have talked about her fucked up teeth. They don’t have to be visibly black in a photo to pain her, or to cause her embarrassment and keep her from getting promotions. (People with bad teeth tend to have bad breath.) It reminds me of something I read several months ago, where a woman set up a kickstarter to fund her cancer treatment and it went viral and raised way more than she thought she’d get, and she posted to her blog that she bought herself a pair of Fleuvogs with some of the money and people went NUTS. Because apparently, impoverished cancer patients can’t want pretty shoes, and all those anonymous internet strangers figure giving her money meant they could tell her exactly how to spend it. Which is not true; giving to someone’s kickstarter or whatever is like handing a homeless person a dollar. You don’t get to follow them around and make sure they’re buying something you approve of. If you don’t like how someone is going to spend their gofundme dollars, don’t donate to sites like that. It’s not a hard concept to grasp. It sucks to be poor and never get to have anything nice or take a vacation or just buy yourself a fucking pair of shoes just because; if someone chooses to give this woman money and she chooses to spend part of it taking her kids somewhere or buying herself a little something, I don’t see the problem.

      Everything official I can find (meaning, not this bullshit one step above Jezebel site, and not a bunch of people commenting on another article) says the girl wants to take a year and write a book and she raised money to do so. More power to her. I say again. Don’t hate. Write a blog that motivates people to give you money so you can write a book. Instead of stalking all the comment sections on all the articles written about some girl you’re jealous of and talking shit. It’s unbecoming.

    • Richard Vandiamondsworth

      You haven’t heard yet. The woman you’re defending–portrayed as too poor to eat good food and get medical care–doesn’t exist. The real Linda T. owns her own home and has medical coverage. She is not currently in dire straits (nor in the band Dire Straits).

      Her teeth look fine in this profile pic from 2004:

      http://www.suunews.com/news/2004/mar/03/democrats-offer-solution/

      Other links explaining what’s really going on:

      http://www.annrbrocklehurst.com/2013/11/linda-tirados-poverty-porn.html

      http://blogs.houstonpress.com/artattack/2013/11/that_viral_poverty_thoughts_es.php

      As the truth comes out, more and more it appears people were duped by a sociopath. That is what happened here.

    • No Name

      Dude, you’re playing chess with a pigeon right now. Just smile, nod, back away, and thank your favorite deities that you were born with a working brain, common sense, and the intelligence to comprehend the difference between reality and fiction.

    • Richard Vandiamondsworth

      Duly noted.

  • OhYeahBaby

    Have you guys seen this? It has some very interesting links about Linda (Lillian I should say). I’ve never heard the term “poverty fan fiction” before. Yuck. http://www.annrbrocklehurst.com/2013/11/linda-tirados-poverty-porn.html

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  • Christopher Alan Driscoll

    Francis Locke, I have no way of knowing if you are lying or not, but I do note that you did not provide a single shred of evidence nor a single document to back up your contention that this woman who wrote the story about living in poverty has not actually lived in poverty, lived out of motel rooms in the past or had to work three jobs to go to college. Such serious assertions, with out a single shred of evidence of documentation is in itself a serious breach of honesty.

  • Sunflower

    I swear you all are a bunch of self important heartless so called children of GOD. The woman just posted a video showing her raggedy teeth. Are you happy now? satisfied? So it takes someone showing personal humiliation for you people to believe them? A bunch of sefl righteous judgemental folks is what you are. I guess its beyond your comprehension someone can be educated, articulate AND poor. There but for the Grace of God you never fall off your high horse.

    • Psych Student

      I am an atheist so I don’t believe in god, nor do I identify as a “child of god”. Good try with the guilt trip though!

  • Jlagen

    Give back ALL of the money, you lying bitch.

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  • Catherine Kuehl

    Disgusting fraud. I’d like to have my teeth fixed too, but it’s purely cosmetic. No way I’d invest $$$ in that, much less beg for funds on the Internet. It takes all kinds…