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What is Internet Begging?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 October 2016
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Also known as cyber begging or Internet panhandling, Internet begging is the strategy of asking strangers for money using electronic means. There are web sites established for the express purpose of allowing individuals to participate in this process of electronic begging, usually with some limitations on what type of begging may take place. These sites, known as cause websites, often focus on providing people who are going through a period of short-term financial distress to seek help in paying bills after a severe illness or making ends meet after the loss of a job.

One of the earliest examples of Internet begging occurred with the advent of online classifieds and bulletin board web sites. These sites made it possible to anonymously place an ad asking for financial help, using an email address as the contact means. As use of the Internet continued to grow, many Internet service providers and some search engines began to offer free one page websites that could be used for any purpose, including Internet begging. In exchange for allowing the provider to display ads on a portion of the page, the end user could share his or her circumstances with a larger audience, ask for help, and provide some means of contact so the help could be extended.

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Over time, many non-profit organizations took the basic idea of Internet begging and adapted the practice to aid in their fundraising activities. This often involves setting up a multi-page web site that allows visitors to learn more about what the non-profit does, who benefits from the funds received, and how much is needed to keep the organization working and providing services to its target audience. As technology began to allow the ability to accept donations online, many non-profits included this option on their web sites, along with more traditional methods such as mailing a donation to a specific snail mail address.

While many people think of Internet begging as relating to people who are too lazy to earn money for their needs, the method is often used by people who have legitimate needs that they currently are unable to meet, no matter how hard they try. For example, a couple may set up a begging site because of mounting hospital bills related an ongoing health issue suffered by one of their children. People who have experienced a job loss and need financial help to tide them through as they look for a new job may utilize this online solicitation process.

When coming across an ad or a web site where Internet begging is taking place, it is often difficult to determine if the need is legitimate. If the solicitation is connected with a reputable charity or similar type of organization, there is a good chance that donations do actually go to meet the need expressed. Because of the high incidence of scam artists using online begging as a means of preying on the sympathies of anyone who may read their hard luck stories, it is very important to take steps to verify the claims made before making a donation. In addition, only make donations when the site is secure, or when the individual asking for help makes use of a third party payment acceptance service that does not reveal debit or credit card information to the recipient.

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Ana1234
Post 4

@pastanaga - There are some cases where it has really made a difference. I know people who were unable to get medical treatment for their children who were able to raise funds through the internet.

But in general, I actually prefer the incentive models. Begging on the internet seems like it's going to quickly become very difficult to avoid because I can imagine quite a few people jumping on the bandwagon in the hopes of making some money they don't deserve.

At least if they are offering incentives it becomes more like a business, rather than just a charity. Although I know it's a lot more difficult for individuals to do this than organizations. I wonder if there is a niche there for an organization to set up the incentives so that individuals in need don't have to.

pastanaga
Post 3

@pleonasm - There are plenty of internet begging sites that don't even allow the posters to offer incentives. They are solely for collecting funds and there is nothing wrong with that. But I would still call it begging. I just don't think that begging has to necessarily be a bad thing.

I do not like it when people start promoting something like this excessively though. Usually it will either be something I'm going to put money towards, or not and posting links to it over and over just makes me less likely to share.

pleonasm
Post 2

I've never really heard this referred to as begging, although I suppose that it suits the term in some ways. I guess, to me, begging is really the kind of thing that is done either anonymously (like, a stranger in the street) or in a kind of nagging way.

But generally, when I see people or organizations asking for money online, they aren't really nagging for it. They set out why they need it and what they are going to use it for and then you can decide whether to contribute or not.

Often they will even offer incentives. In that way they are more like street musicians than beggars, because they are giving something back and not just begging for money.

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