As Saudi Arabia’s drive to take beggary off the streets intensifies, the mendicants have changed the way they seek alms.
They used to wear shabby clothes and approach people near mall entrances, mosques and major traffic intersections.
Today, some beggars ride new cars, wear clean and new clothes and approach unsuspecting people by pretending to be lost or from out of town and in need of assistance, Al-Riyadh daily reports.
Unsuspecting passersby are often approached by a presentable person who pretends to be in distress and in need of immediate help.
The story is always the same: “I am not from this city. My car has run out of gas and I need help,” the paper said.
Mansour Al-Ghareeb, a sociology professor at Al-Majmah University, says the grand mufti has warned the general public against believing what such beggars claim and urged people not to give them any money.
“In my opinion, such people are not beggars. They are fraudsters who con people out of their hard-earned money. A beggar is someone who wears torn clothes or suffers from a deformity or a certain medical condition. There are some who stand near a pharmacy and ask passersby to give them money to buy medications because they cannot afford them. I think many people use these tricky methods to get easy money,” he said.
Al-Ghareeb said beggars have changed the traditional methods for asking for money because these methods have proved to be futile.
Today’s beggars focus on taking advantage of the fact that most people would not hesitate to help a stranded person who finds himself out of money in a strange place.
“The best way to combat these negative practices is to launch an exhaustive awareness campaign in the media and explain to people that these beggars are tricksters and some of them pose security threats to social and national security as they use this money to destabilize the country. Short documentary films can help educate people about the dangers those beggars pose to society,” he added.
Mansour Al-Masfooh, director of anti-begging unit, Ministry of Labor and Social Development, asserted that the ministry is responsible for investigating the social status of Saudis who beg to ensure they are really in need of help and that they are not subscribers in the General Organization of Social Insurance and do not get financial aid from any charitable organization.
“We work together with several government agencies to investigate beggars who use suspicious methods to earn money and report them to the authorities,” he noted, urging citizens to play an active role in reporting such people to the authorities.
Dr. Mansour Askar, professor of sociology at Imam Muhammad Bin Saud Islamic University, noted that some beggars use social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to con money out of people.
“The only way to put an end to this ugly phenomenon is to encourage the general public to report beggars to the authorities. We have a large number of charitable organizations who get a lot of donations in cash and kind and work day and night to help the poor, widows, divorced women and all the needy. We should work together with them and never give money to beggars on streets,” he said