Donation fraud: Con men cashing in on Syria crisis



JEDDAH: DIANA AL-JASSEM

Published — Sunday 23 June 2013

Last update 28 June 2013 7:14 pm

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A large number of bank accounts opened purportedly to collect funds for Syrians are fake, according to Talat Hafiz, secretary-general of the media and banking awareness committee of Saudi banks.
“We can confirm that so far we don’t have any donation campaigns for Syria. Some individuals are opening small offices and running advertisements urging donations for Syria. Such calls by individuals are unrecognized. Any donation campaign has to be managed or certified by the government,” he said.
In recent days, a good number of such pseudo campaigns have spread in the Kingdom's social media. Information about these is also e-mailed to some unsuspecting Saudis.
The Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA), which is tasked with monitoring accounts that transform money to Syria or any other country in crisis due to war or poverty, will take action against these fake accounts.
“Opening donation accounts requires official approval from higher authorities, in addition to the fulfillment of several requirements by Saudi banks and the SAMA,” Hafiz said.
Many Syrian expats, as well as some Saudis, are distressed by what they call the “misuse” of the Syrian crisis. They say many people beg, claiming they are Syrians displaced by the war, just to gain people’s sympathy.
“I work in a retail shop at Aziz Mall. I noticed an elderly woman regularly visiting the mall to beg. She would specifically seek Saudi customers and Syrians. She claimed that she came to the Kingdom after the civil war started in Syria but I had been seeing her for long,” said Saad Koushk, a Syrian who works in a makeup store.
He added: “As a Syrian I felt sorry for her and asked her about her current status and her origins. She claimed that she is from Homs, and particularly from Bab Amor. She didn’t appear to be Syrian and neither did her dialect,” he said.
Koushk then asked the woman to show him her ID or passport. When she did, he discovered that she was, in fact, a Palestinian.
“We feel sorry when we see people beg and try to get money in the name of the Syrian crisis,” he said.
A Saudi woman told Arab News that she had a Yemeni driver, who used to collect money from her and her friends on a monthly basis, which he claimed he was giving to a Syrian family living in the Kingdom.
“After a few months we decided not to give money to that driver because when we gave him used clothes or furniture he would refuse them. He only accepted money. If he were honest and there was really a needy family, the family would accept everything, such as clothes, food, furniture and other stuff, in addition to money,” said Hala Ahmad, a Saudi housewife.

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