DUBAI: In a new trend Dubai residents have taken to the web to solicit cash and goods for free. These cyber-beggars, also commonly referred to as online panhandlers, cite various reasons -- ranging from worthy-sounding and emotionally-charged causes to the downright outrageous.
“I need money to pay for my start-up business licence,” wrote one in a November appeal made through a Dubai online classifieds site.
“I do not want to delay my credit card payments,” an Arab man told XPRESS, following his web appeal. “At this moment, it is very difficult for me to pay off my monthly dues.”
Some sob stories may melt your heart, but it’s up to donors to check the claims.
“I need help for medical treatment,” an Asian man posted in early December. Another online plea asked for money to pay his credit card dues: “Being human...I need help”.
To check their claims, XPRESS called their numbers listed at the end of their appeal.
“I need only Dh6,000 to clear my credit card bill at the soonest ...because unexpected expenses ruined my end-of-year budget,” one man said, adding that he was ready to pay interest to the lender.
An Asian man wrote an appeal on December 13: “I need money to get a [UAE] driving licence. After I get my licence, I will return the money. I have a job already but I hope to get better pay once I get a driving licence. I do not have a bank account, though.”
Not everyone is asking for money just for themselves. “I need to send Dh1,500 to someone who is in need. I cannot help on my own,” one plea stated.
Online begging has gained traction through hundreds of dedicated begging websites in the West. The upside is complete anonymity and the possibility of solving real problems – from getting free braces for children to paying off loans. In the US, money that corporations give through online begging sites can be tax-deductable.
Keryn Bosnak, an American TV producer, started the trend when she launched an online appeal in 2002 to help clear her credit card bills. An online beggar also boasted of being able to get a downpayment for his house after listing with OutrageousRequests.com, a begging site that charges a $9.50 subscription fee.
In Dubai, anonymity may save those seeking help from public exposure, but it does not necessarily ensure success.
“It has been almost a month since I put an online plea for help, but there has hardly been any response,” an Asian cyber-beggar told XPRESS.
Begging is banned in the UAE and authorities conduct inspections throughout the year to nab beggars. More than 650 beggars were deported in 2011. Dubai Municipality deported 200 beggars and illegal workers each month last year.