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CNN LIVE AT DAYBREAK

Panhandlers Begging Online

Aired June 9, 2003 - 05:52   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Many people have taken a new approach to asking for money. They are actually begging online. I'm talking about panhandlers begging online.
As Jeanne Moos reports, you won't believe why they need the money.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It used to be, "Brother, can you spare me a dime?" But now it's, "Need money for driving lessons," "$2,000 for artificial limbs," "Transsexual needs surgery to become a woman."

At last check, the transsexuals received six bucks.

Panhandling used to be so personal, but now there's cyber begging. "Fat girl trying to get surgery to get skinny, seeking a gastric lap banding procedure."

VOICE OF ALISHA, CYBER BEGGER: It's a little embarrassing, but if you want people to donate, you've got to show them what they're donating to. So you've got to put pictures up.

MOOS: She needs almost 7,000 bucks. But after getting $18 from generous people the first week, she got zip weeks two and three. Others have raked in thousands.

TODD ROSENBERG, ODDTODD.COM: A dollar. Thank you, all of you guys, for the dollars.

MOOS: Todd Rosenberg is better known from his Web cartoons as "Odd Todd."

ROSENBERG: ... personal, but the cuts have really started affecting my social life.

MOOS: Odd Todd was a dot-comer who lost his job. His witty cartoons about unemployment woes won him tips from strangers, $20,000 in tips. He's even publishing a book on things to do while unemployed.

ROSENBERG: For what it's worth, it beats frigging working.

MOOS: Even a site called "Buy Me A Drink," where the next round is on you says it has raked in over $140. "Here's five bucks, I hope your liver explodes." Speaking of exploding, Giveboobs.com has reached its goal of $4,500 for a breast implant procedure. A person going by the name Michelle Wong (ph) showed a 34A photo and a simulated picture of what she could look like. If the boob fund grows, so do the boobs. Both apparently did.

By now, according to an e-mail exchange, Michelle should be the proud owner of implants. Her site was so entertaining, so amusing, we started to have doubts. Was this is a snow job about a breast job? After repeated requests for a phone interview, Michelle answered, "Oh, for god's sakes, just forget it then. I carefully control my image and my words." This is one dot-com that didn't go bust, though we may never know if her story is as false as the implants.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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