Rise of e-begging during Ramadan

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KUWAIT CITY, April 13: The wave of transformation into the virtual world has affected all walks of life such that many crimes and negative phenomena have shifted from our real world to the World Wide Web including the phenomenon of begging, which spread remarkably on social media, reports Al-Qabas daily.

Although the phenomenon of electronic or virtual begging is not new, it has increased during the month of Ramadan, similar to the actual begging.

Similar to the way beggars knock on the doors of homes and wait in front of mosques in residential areas and others, there are beggars spread on communication sites who send many pre-prepared messages to account holders on Twitter and others. However, it is strange that some of these beggars manage to get the phone numbers of others and send them WhatsApp requests for donations or payments for the treatment of sick or afflicted people, and attach these messages with medical documents and forged papers.

They usually search for ways to prey on people’s sympathy, taking advantage of this atmosphere of faith and spirituality, and the desire to do good.

The phenomenon of e-begging has started spreading in a number of social media sites particularly Twitter and Instagram.

According to informed sources, it has become more like an organized trade where the beggar sends private messages to a number of users, asking them for material or in-kind assistance, and explaining his condition. Some of them even attach pictures to prove their poor financial condition.

Social media allows beggars to reach the largest number of users, thereby increasing their chance of obtaining what they want.

Most of the cases are scams against people, as these messages do not contain any accurate personal or other information.

The sources affirmed that the phenomenon of virtual begging is convenient for beggars, as it is a way through which the beggar hides using a fake account. Such a concealment relieves him of any social embarrassment he may feel in the case of actual begging, and also may keep him somewhat away from legal prosecution unless a complaint is filed against him.

They explained that the second and important feature is that virtual begging crosses borders and continents, as residents of different countries may use begging messages on people in other countries. Also, virtual begging gives the beggar a greater opportunity to explain his condition and write whatever he wants to write to tickle the feelings of the message recipient.

The phenomenon of electronic begging exists throughout the year, but it is prevalent during the month of Ramadan. It usually involves the beggar explaining his need to prepare for the holy month.

The sources stressed that there are organized ways to help the needy through charitable work, calling for not paying attention to e-begging messages, and for reporting them.

In addition, jurists called for updating legislation to prevent beggary of all kinds, stressing that most cases of beggary end in acquittal due to flaws in legislation and legal loopholes.

They explained that some beggars send links for payment, and then rob bank accounts. There are cases before the courts because of this fraud. They obtain phone numbers in a scrupulous manner, and sometimes their crimes occur across borders.

Some beggars have mastered sending WhatsApp messages through the use of programs that allow them to use fake numbers. The numbers are often chosen from outside Kuwait from specific countries to delude the recipient of the messages that the beggar is from a chaste family, but lives in a country that suffers from harsh conditions.

In this regard, lecturer of psychology at Kuwait University Dr. Amthal Al-Huwailah stressed that most of the electronic begging operations are carried out by an organized mafia to obtain money, especially since most of these beggars use fake names, and promote pictures, forged medical documents, etc. to sympathize with people.

She indicated that there may be a very small percentage of them who are honest.

Dr. Al-Huwailah explained that electronic begging has become widespread for several reasons, the most important of which is lack of deterrence and failure to reveal the identity of beggars, which made them persist. Also, it does not require effort, and is less susceptible to legal prosecution, especially if the beggars are from other countries, taking advantage of the sympathy of others to ask for help by soliciting sympathy.

She insisted on the seriousness of the warning issued by the concerned authorities against donating to non-licensed parties, especially since there are extremist groups and gangs organized to exploit people, stressing that electronic begging is a fraud.

Dr. Al-Huwailah affirmed that the spread of this phenomenon is related to a number of reasons such as unemployment, idleness, and the psychopathic personality, which exploits the sympathy of others.

She indicated that some people exploit the names of countries suffering from disasters or wars to elicit people’s sympathy.

Dr. Al-Huwailah called for the need for people to be more aware and emotionally stable so as not to fall prey to such operations of fraud.

She demanded specialists in psychology and sociology to study the phenomenon of electronic begging, as it has spread widely, in order to know the motives scientifically and through a critical and scientific analysis, and contribute to raising people’s awareness of this phenomenon, as it has become a social and security problem.

She said this phenomenon should not be combated using traditional methods, adding that those who practice it use modern, developed and constantly updated methods.

In addition, Lawyer Mustafa Mulla Yousef affirmed that the courts did not witness any case of begging, either electronic begging or begging in public places, because it is considered a violation handled by the Ministry of Interior by deporting the perpetrators of this violation, adding that it is not considered a crime by legal text until the perpetrators are prosecuted.

He stressed that fraud crimes are on the rise, either in imaginary begging, or by announcing the sale of supplies at low prices, or by participating in competitions that do not exist.

Lawyer Mustafa said, “Some of those who practice electronic begging believe that they are safe through numbers registered in the names of others or through fake accounts on communication sites. Some of them could actually be in need, but others are practicing fraud. We would not know that for certain. The perpetrators of e-begging are usually tried for fraud crimes.”

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