Cyber beggars or cyber liars?

By Layron Livingston - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Handouts don't come easy in hard times, but a few websites claim to give those in need some cyber help.

Websites for "cyber begging" or "digital panhandling" allow people in need to post their stories online, all in hopes visitors reach out, and dig deep.

"I've never been on a website asking people for anything," said Captain Dingo, a self-proclaimed hobo.

We met Dingo flying his cardboard sign in South Tyler, Monday afternoon.  Dingo said he's been in Tyler for about a week, day laboring and panhandling, trying to get back home to Arizona.

He said everything he owns was packed in his green duffle bag and guitar case.  "It's not transparent, it's right here in front of your face."

But in the digital world, it's hard to say if all those tales of money problems are actually true.

"You don't really know where your money is going to," said Mechele Agbayani with the Better Business Bureau. even posts a disclaimer, saying, "Cyber-beg cannot guarantee any beggar is legitimate and makes no claim that they are."

Agbayani said she was not surprised that begging has gone digital.  She said she was more surprising by the number of sites she actually found--more than 66,000.

"People put a heart wrenching story out on the Internet, and if it reaches you, you might be tempted to give," she said.

Agbayani said if you are ever in doubt, check it out.  A good place to start is with the BBB, where you can check out charities yourself.

In the meantime, Captain Dingo said he'd stick to the old tricks of the trade.

"Whatever it takes to get home," he said.

The sites are apparently picking up steam. Cyberbeg reports as of December 21, 2009, more than $23,000 has been collected.

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