Dubai: If you have recently received a message on Whatsapp asking you to donate money or goods for helping the underprivileged, beware. Police authorities in the UAE have been raising awareness in the community to warn people of organised online begging scams and have asked people not to fall for such messages.
In a post on its official social media accounts, Abu Dhabi Police issued a statement educating people of the UAE's laws that regulate charitable activities. According to the statement by Abu Dhabi Police, the minimum penalty for conducting online begging is Dh5,000 and a three-month jail sentence. The penalties are stricter in cases of organised begging or when the person asking for donations is able-bodied.
Begging on social media
Abu Dhabi police explained that individuals use social media as a tool to achieve illegal goals, and that electronic platforms make the act of begging more dangerous than traditional methods of begging, due to that fact that the same message can reach many more people.
The police authority urged community members to not send or transfer money to unknown people, as they do not know what the money will be used for.
Harsher penalties for organised begging
The penalty for organised begging is imprisonment for a minimum period of six months, and a fine of no less than Dh100,000 is imposed on offenders. The same penalty is also applied on anyone who recruits or brings an individual to the UAE to take part in organised begging.
Dubai Police’s anti-begging campaign
Last year, Dubai Police had arrested a man for begging through Whatsapp. They also issued a statement urging community members to ignore cyber beggars who use social media to scam people, especially during the month of Ramadan.
How do I donate to charity?
If you do want to donate to charity or to the less fortunate, it should only be done through registered charities. It is important to note that charitable activities are regulated in the UAE. Federal Decree Law No. 3 of 2021 on Regulating Donations stipulates the rules and guidelines for collecting donations to protect contributors against exploitation and ensure the donations reach the beneficiaries.
As per the law, donations can be in cash or kind, or even in local currency or foreign exchange, bonds, cheques and shares. It also discusses guidelines for food and pharmaceutical donations.
According to the law, an individual is not allowed to host, organise or carry out any fundraising activity without a permit.
To understand how to legally donate to charity in the UAE, read our detailed explainer here.
Can I report begging in the UAE?
Yes, you can report begging, both the local police authorities have urged residents to call their respective hotlines.
To report begging call the AMAN Service at 800 2626 or SMS 2828
AMAN Service is a security channel operating 24/7 that takes calls related to security, community, traffic, etc. It guarantees keeping confidential the identity of the information provider.
For Dubai, you can either call the non-emergency hotline – 901 – or through the ‘Police Eye’ service here: https://www.dubaipolice.gov.ae/wps/portal/home/services/individualservicescontent/PoliceEyecatecatalog
The ‘Police Eye’ service is a smart programme available through the Dubai Police App, which allows members of the public to report suspicious activities and submit security tips in total confidentiality. According to Dubai Police, the user-friendly application allows people to attach videos, photos or voice messages and even pin the location of the incident when filing a report.