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Fraudulent charity e-mails on the rise

Last updated: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 1:49 PM

Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH — Fraudulent e-mails asking for money on behalf of charities have become even more convincing. Religion is often used as a compelling reason to elicit quick responses to these messages, especially when they are illegally linked to trusted scholars. Messages carrying the subject lines “Families needs” or “Saving a young man from execution” are initiated by con-artist rings.

They prey on the good faith of respondents in order to embezzle their money, Al-Madinah newspaper reported.

Government authorities have continually warned against responding to such messages and have urged the public to visit registered charities instead.
Scholars have also urged members of the public to be aware their names are being used illegally in such messages.

Citizens said messages that ask for bank account numbers are intended for the purpose of embezzling respondents.

The needy should go to the charitable bodies for help, while donors should make sure their donations do not end up in the wrong hands, they said. These messages tend to increase during Ramadan, taking advantage of those wishing to earn the divine reward.

Some will only donate if the message is received from a trusted friend or relative.

These messages often conclude with verses from the Holy Qur’an or the Traditions of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

The head of the national banking information and awareness committee Mohammad Al-Rabeeah said these messages represent one of the most popular scam methods.

Organized criminal organizations may be behind these messages, he said.
Those behind these messages intend to commit crimes such as money laundering and illegal funding, he claimed.

Assistant faculty member of social and criminal science at King Fahd Security College Dr. Abdullah Al-Shalan said the intentions behind such messages are difficult to determine.

Such messages could intend to spread goodness in the society.

On the other hand, they could have the bad intention of embezzling money from others.

When ethics are weakened and money becomes the motivator of behavior,
individuals try to use all means to acquire money, he said.

There are organizations that deal with charitable work and helping the needy, he said, adding that they use legal channels for collecting donations and distributing them.

A professor of Islamic Studies, who did not wish to be identified, said it is important to please God by donating and supporting others.

This explains why electronic means of communication are used to reach donors, he said, adding that collecting donations to save a death row convict from execution may actually be harmful to society.

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