In this week's issue

Say no to beggars

Beware the pull on your heart strings. It’s your purse strings that are being reached for

  • By Faisal Masudi, Staff Reporter
  • Published: 22:37 August 8, 2012
  • XPRESS

  • Image Credit: Faisal Masudi/XPRESS
  • This man was spotted begging near the Abu Shagara traffic lights on King Faisal Street in Sharjah.

Dubai Yet another Ramadan has been marred by con men fleecing residents by posing as the needy, who have been caught with wads of cash and enjoying nights in plush hotels.

Despite repeated appeals from police to ignore ‘professional beggars’, charitable residents continue to fall victim to their sob-stories and shabby appearance.

On Sunday, a Pakistani man was caught by Sharjah Police with Dh30,000 he had collected in door-to-door pleas. Last month, Dubai Police caught a male beggar dressed in a full-body veil for women

Dubai’s wealth and charity spirit, which seems to peak in Ramadan, has made it a favourite target of fraudsters who fly in to prey on people’s emotions, officials reiterated this week.

A massive crackdown has been launched to bust begging rings, with over 130 beggars taken off the street by police so far this Ramadan in Dubai alone.

According to officials quoted in local media, roughly 600 beggars are caught every year — half of them in Ramadan.

Special police units and hotlines have been deployed to report beggars, with rewards offered for information on them. Still, the con goes on.

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On Sunday, a Pakistani man was caught by Sharjah Police with Dh30,000 he had collected in door-to-door pleas.

Last month, Dubai Police caught a male beggar dressed in a full-body veil for women.

Other reports reveal some beggars have been found staying in groups in hotels over the years, at least one of them in a luxury five-star Dubai retreat. Some of them were found to have entered the UAE on tourist visas.

There has also been a case of a fake fundraiser seeking to swindle hundreds of thousands of dirhams out of residents. And the busts include a beggar caught after faking a medical condition and related paperwork — to an off-duty police offer.

Meanwhile, a beggar in Sharjah Industrial Area was found faking disability after forgetting to use the same leg for limping around by an Iranian businessman who observed him switching limbs a number of times.

Beggars often use template sob stories that seem to match word-for-word across cases.

Residents who suspect they are victims of begging scams said there are several examples: There is the ‘gas money’ tale in which Arab men in four-wheelers approach pedestrians for cash, claiming they ran out of fuel following a trip from Saudi Arabia or Oman.

Pakistani and Indian beggars often use the ‘sisters wedding’-tear jerker about how they were blessed with so many sisters — but they need dresses as they happen to be getting married in quick succession. However, they refuse to take dresses as gifts, instead demanding hard currency.

Meanwhile, the ‘hungry for days’ beggars vanish if you offer them food — they seem to be hungry only for money.

Genuine cases have been urged by authorities to approach certified charity groups instead of begging.

But despite strict laws — those caught begging face deportation and a ban from the UAE — residents continue to be ambushed by beggars lying in wait outside shopping malls, in parking lots, on street corners, and even at their doorstep.

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