The solicitation of donations to fund phony projects, such as mosque construction or health bills, continues in Indonesia, with tourists and kind-hearted locals alike warned to be vigilant.
The phenomena isn’t strictly Indonesian, says sociologist Laurentius Dyson. It is common in many countries where individuals face poor job opportunities and high crime rates.
Poverty teamed up with a lack of access to education is often blamed for encouraging scammers to ask for donations, citing house of worship construction or tragedies, including natural disasters and medical issues.
Fraudulent requests of money to build mosques is still popular in Jakarta. Armed with just a charity box and a fake approval letter from the worship building committee, the criminals are able to deceive people in the name of charity.
But, donations for construction are not necessarily truly fraudulent. Sometimes, a proposal or approval letter is in fact legitimate, but the donation money will be stolen.
Sukisno, a coordinator for donations to build mosques across Jakarta, said many roadside or house-to-house requests are fraudulent, but not all. He noted it is often difficult to distinguish what cases are real or not and recommends attending the mosque directly.
Furthermore, he claimed to gain Rp.5 million (US$375) to Rp.7 million (US$525) from his practices in making fake approval letter for donation of fictitious mosque’s construction and ‘profit sharing’ between him and real mosque committee.
Usually the ‘profit sharing’ is 60:40 where Sukisno will ask for donation house-to-house while charity box and approval letter for construction of these real mosques will come from committees. Later the collected money in the charity box will be open with the presence of two parties. Then the money yield from this ‘donation’ will be divided according to the agreement.
Beside of that, in the aim for corporate social responsibility, he revealed to also spread ‘proposal for donation’ to companies. He stated to yield Rp.500,000 (US$37) to Rp.1,000,000 (US$75) on each company. With the authenticity of the proposal, as well as some photos of the mosque’s construction, companies usually not suspicious and ready to spend a considerable amount of funds for it.
Fraudulent donation requests are rife online, particularly on social media. A 2015 survey conducted by software company Symantec found Indonesia place 13th in Asia Pacific for incidents of social media-based fraud.
A recent case emerged after Cak Budi, a netizen famous for charity action through crowdfunding on his Instagram account, hit back at claims he had purchased an iPhone 7 and a Toyota Fortuner using donation money he claimed for ‘operational needs’ surfaced.
The issue trended across social media and Cak Budi was forced to defend his operation, saying that Rp.1.2 billion (US$90,103) raised in donations had not yet been distributed. The money was planned to build a nursing home for homeless elderly, he said.
After some buzz in the media, Cak Budi sold the Toyota Fortuner and donated Rp.1,774,388,531 (US$ 133,232.45) in crowdfunding cash to Aksi Cepat Tanggap (ACT) – a professional nonprofit organization focusing on humanitarian work.
When approached for donation, it is advised to thoroughly check proposals by contacting the organisation directly and viewing a committee chart or spending plan. Additionally, it is best to avoid donating via social media to individuals and instead donate to trusted fundraising platform such as kitabisa.com.
Image credits: Scenic City Opera