How the scam works:
You come across somebody online who is in need of your help. She might say she is in a hospital in the Ivory Coast, London, or Amsterdam with cancer (some scammers even shave their heads). Meanwhile, her children might need to be taken care of (or need college money). The story is really emotional and compelling with pictures attached to every message. People feel bad at not helping the unfortunate and become victims as soon as they start sending money. Most of the “hospitalized patients” keep the conversation going as long as they can and always come up with unforeseen expenses.
In the most recent variation of the scam, a 'lady' claims to be the sister of a certain Dieynaba Sarr Diatta, a pregnant woman expecting triplets in Senegal, West Africa. She says the unborn children have a terminal tumor and need urgent medical attention. The scammer even attaches pictures (below) of the ultrasound.
How to avoid:
It's nice of you to help people in need, but unfortunately there are literally thousands of scammers out there who take advantage of people's generosity. They are all experts at telling a heartbreaking, but completely untrue, story. Only help if you have strong proof that your money is going towards what it is supposed to. Really it's best to help the unfortunate through large, registered charities.