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Saudi Arabia

Experts alarmed at spreading online begging on social networking sites

ABHA: Online beggars have started using social media where they direct their messages to draw sympathy through stories from inside Saudi Arabia.
Information security expert Mohammad Al-Sareai said the information revolution has contributed to the spread of online/electronic begging using forged documents and fabricated stories and posting them across social networks such as Twitter and WhatsApp.
“People usually seek to collect funds for mosques or treatment under nicknames and fake accounts, where electronic begging is considered the latest means of fraud. Electronic begging and fraud are two sides of the same coin, and aim to deceive people into raising funds illegally. The crime of fraud is considered among the most frequent occurring cybercrimes on social networking sites,” he said.
Al-Sareai added that Article 4 of the Anti-Cyber Crime Law covers “acquisition of movable property or bonds for oneself or others or signing such bonds through fraud or use of false name or identity. Any person who commits said crime shall be subject to imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years and a fine not exceeding SR2 million, or to either punishment.”
Sheikh Ahmed Al-Muabi, said that “cyberfraud and begging have become widespread in our communities, and we can never tell if they are all liars, but it is the new means of begging and we should, in fact, be cautious about it.”
He added that no doubt it is human nature to feel sympathy and compassion, but people should first investigate the source, because God has made it clear to whom zakat should be given: “Alms are for the poor and the needy, and those employed to administer the (funds); for those whose hearts have been (recently) reconciled (to Truth); for those in bondage and in debt; in the cause of Allah; and for the wayfarer: (thus is it) ordained by Allah.”
Dr. Mohammed Kisnawi, sociology counselor at the University of Umm Al-Qura, said that the person should deal with such messages with caution and advise the sender to go to charities.
“We should not forget the need to educate individuals on circulating news about a person who gives zakat, where this helps increasing the phenomenon of begging,” he said.
Kisnawi continued saying that society should be aware of the risk of circulating such messages, rather make sure to reach out to competent authorities.”
Khaled Al-Jelban, a family and community medicine consultant at King Khalid University, indicated, “families must educate their children about practices of begging across social media … and community institutions should direct charitable work among our youths to official authorities, which already provide services to those in need.”

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