Abu Dhabi: “I am a widow who lost my husband in the war and have five children, please help me...”
“An Arab who lost his son and wife in the war has lost everything he owned...”
Emotionally-charged messages go around the electronic sphere, hoping to grab your attention. If messages such as these on social media or in your email make you sympathetic and want to reach out, ensure you don’t get carried away and do a double check.
Why? Because cyber-criminals are out to trick victims out of their money, assets, property or inheritance.
Abu Dhabi Police have stressed the importance of the public coming together to stop all forms of begging, whether physical or electronic, as they aim to solicit users to obtain material and in-kind benefits by sending text messages, humanitarian pictures and other appeals to help orphans, treat patients, or build mosques and schools in poor countries.
They have warned community members against sending or even transferring money to unknown persons, saying that every individual has a role in confronting the scourge of begging.
One of the most common frauds is impersonating others and choosing famous and well-known personalities and names to deceive account holders who receive emails from a supposedly important social, political or commercial figure.
The transfer of money illegally or illegitimately can cause great legal risks, as such a matter has become criminal in many cases, and may cause legal measures to be taken against the individuals or companies involved.
For example, a person was caught with a fake account on Instagram after he was found impersonating a famous Gulf personality and asking for a sum to help a poor family. In order to justify the strange request, he claimed that he was currently outside the country, and would pay back the money with a reward upon his return.
This type of fraud has become widespread in all countries with its perpetrators targeting vulnerable people.
Protection against cybercrime
First, it is necessary to understand the phenomenon of “electronic begging”, which is no different from traditional begging in cities, streets, and shops. It is based mainly on deception, deceit, sympathy and excitement to obtain money illegally.
Significantly, many online beggars reveal their identity. There are hundreds of begging sites on the Internet with “well-known” beggars who actually have registration numbers and their own domain names on the Internet.
On some sites, beggars ask the public for help with bizarre needs, like wanting to get a liposuction, a botox procedure, undertake a holiday, buy a new car or watch etc.
There are those who beg, claiming that they lost everything they own in a natural disaster, war, car accident, or as a result of illness. But when you deal with the person, you discover that you have fallen victim to fraud.
Ibrahim Al Thahli, a social media activist, said: “The more information transfer technologies develop, the more methods of electronic fraud develop with them. Over the past few years, the concept of electronic begging has emerged, through which swindlers seek to exploit people’s feelings and sympathy for humanitarian cases to obtain money in illegal and immoral ways and methods.”
He added: “With a large number of such cases, the best way to confront this phenomenon is to raise awareness and not give in to emotions and dealing with those who beg through social media platforms without knowing their true identity or even their real name.”
Al Thahli also said: “As one of the activists on social media, I appeal to young people, especially teenagers, who are running after illusions and believe the swindlers who use women and girls to lure young men in the trap of fraud, that this is one of the most dangerous fraud operations because it combines begging with fraud.
"Therefore, we advise young people not to give in and run after any e-mail, message, or photo on social media. We advise them to quickly report any attempt to defraud or beg via the internet.”
Regarding fraud methods, Al Thahli said: “There are those who beg, claiming that they lost everything they own in a natural disaster, war, car accident, or as a result of illness. But when you deal with the person, you discover that you have fallen victim to fraud.”
Al Thahli warned against the phenomena of begging online.
“I hope that everyone should be aware of internet-based begging and online donation websites. It is the online version of traditional begging via the internet and a way for people to get help with their financial problems through begging online, a practice known as cyber-begging or digital panhandling.”
About the most common types of electronic frauds, Al Thahli said there are a number of examples of personal fraud:
- Identity theft
- Imposter scams (phishing attacks)
- Credit card and debit card fraud
- Mortgage and loan fraud
- Fake cheque scams
- Employment scams
- Online fraud involving malware and advance fee scams
- Charity fraud
- Internet ticket fraud
- Online gift card fraud
- Counterfeit postal money orders fraud
- Purchase fraud
Know the law
Advocate and Legal Consultant Ali Khalaf Al Hosani told Gulf News that the increasing use of digital technologies in the electronic transfer of funds plays a vital role in the services sector.
“However, the transfer of that money to an unworthy party is a violation of financial and visual laws in most countries of the world, including the legislation issued in the UAE. Violators are punished with imprisonment, or exposure to fines or large financial compensations, which means that the person or entity that conducts such transactions must make sure of the authenticity of the entity to which the transfer is made and ensure that the latter is entitled to those funds.”
Risk to donors
He added: “The transfer of money illegally or illegitimately can cause great legal risks, as such a matter has become criminal in many cases, and may cause legal measures to be taken against the individuals or companies involved, which leads to the imposition of criminal or civil penalties ranging from imprisonment and imprisonment, in addition to the financial penalties against the one who made the transfer, as well as the one who received that money and deposited it in his account.”
Based on the provisions of Article 30 of the Rumors and Electronic Crimes Law, the accused shall be punished with imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years and a fine of not less than Dh100,000 dirhams and not more than Dh5 million, whoever uses an information network, electronic information system, or any information technology means to transfer illegal funds or deposit it with the intention of concealing or camouflaging its illegal source.
Transferring and transferring money with the aim of concealing or disguising its source in what is called money laundering, Al Hosani pointed out.
“Verifying and investigating the identity and credibility of the person to whom it is sent before carrying out the transfer process is more than just a legal necessity, but rather a national duty, and in order to maintain financial stability and the reputation of financial institutions, basic precautions are taken by individuals and companies to avoid the risk of falling into a quagmire financial, crimes have become an urgent and legally binding matter,” he said.
Al Hosani explained that legislators in the UAE, in order to protect citizens and consumers from electronic fraud and deception, and to prevent the financing of criminal and terrorist activities, have singled out a special statute to combat begging via the internet.
The provisions of Article No. 51 of the Rumours and Electronic Crimes Law stipulates that “whoever commits the crime of begging, using information technology means, through begging, or by any form or means, shall be punished with imprisonment for a period not exceeding three months and a fine of no less than Dh10,000, or one of these two penalties.”