Beggars carry device to accept mobile money.


In China, smartphones and QR codes have become tools of the trade for beggars. If you’re feeling generous and don’t have cash on you, you can still whip out your phone, scan a printed QR code and transfer some money to the beggar’s account.

Local media have spread news of mobile savvy beggars in the city of Jinan, in China’s Shandong Province. They gather in areas popular with tourists, holding begging bowls that contain a QR code printout. Anyone with Alipay, WeChat Wallet, or some other mobile payment app can scan the code and make a donation.

One of the beggars, who caught the media’s attention, was reportedly a man with mental problems and the QR code he had was made by his family to help him. However, it appears that QR code begging serves other purposes besides generating income for people down on their luck.

According to digital marketing company, China Channel, many beggars in Beijing receive payment from local businesses for every QR code scanned by passers-by. The enterprises use these scans to collect people’s data from WeChat profiles, sell the IDs for some amount to small businesses that in turn use them for advertisements purposes.

Interestingly, beggars in the West are not that far behind their Chinese peers when it comes to mobile payments. A few years ago, professional beggar, Damien Preston-Booth, made headlines for using a mobile card reader and accepting donations via credit card.


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