(CBS) This is the ninth in a month-long series of reports called "Making Ends Meet" about how families are coping with the tough economy, unemployment and smaller retirement accounts.
(Name removed for privacy) lived the ultimate New York dream.
It was like living that lifestyle that everyone sees on TV.
Pulling in a six-figure income, she had a taste for fancy dinners and all things designer.
She had great shoes, great clothes, great job, and went out to dinner a lot, got
her hair done and she spent a little bit more than she made..
But, as CBS News Correspondent Mika Brzezinski reports, this woman suddenly found herself unemployed. Two years of marathon shopping put
her debt out of control.
"At one point it added up to $25,000," she says.
Decked out in Gucci but unable to pay, this twenty-something had an idea: simply ask for the money.
"I was literally begging on the Internet for people to help me," she says. "The goal was to pay it off and you can watch me do it and come along for the ride."
And that's precisely what thousands of people did.
In just 20 weeks, followers of her donation website watched as she knocked down more than $20,000 in debt, some from her own belt tightening but most came from donations ranging from a penny to $500.
Her cyber-begging site was among the first, but now there are hundreds trying to tap into this technological gold rush: all making the same pitch for cash and each with its own "pick me" reason. From the woman who wants breast implants to the guy who wants his college tuition financed.
Dan K. has donated to three cyber-beggars and donated $50. He too was once in debt and says
that the frankness of her website struck a chord.
But why would this man give money to someone who got herself in trouble at Gucci? After all, she's not a charity, nor is she in dire straits.
"I think it's a little more than begging," says Mr. K. "I think it's sort of like singing for your dinner, I think it makes a difference."
Randy Cohen writes the "Ethicist" column for the New York Times Magazine. He says the notion of "cyber-begging" pushes the limits of charity.
"We make a kind of agreement as a society that we'll help those truly in need, and when you put your hand out if you're not truly in need you're violating that agreement," says Cohen.
Did this woman ever feel weird taking the money?
No, it just felt good, she was quoted as saying.
For now, this debtor turned cyber-beggar knows she has to stick to window-shopping. That is until her six-figure book and movie deal comes thru.
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