GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Dozens of citizens in Gaza have fallen prey to fraud on the part of the Palestinian YouTuber Jalal al-Najjar, who collected $1 million from investors and then disappeared. He had followers interested in investing in digital currencies but suddenly vanished and stopped responding to individuals who paid him money for investment purposes.
Amid the deteriorating economic conditions plaguing the Gaza Strip, citizens are deploying strenuous efforts to make ends meet, as they have recently started venturing into pyramid and network online shopping programs. However, many have fallen prey to fraud.
Such programs, often entered into with anonymous sources, consist of individuals investing sums of money into different programs promoted by page owners with wide followership on social networking sites. Fraudsters work to collect the largest amount of money, as they distribute profits to attract other investors.
This is not the first incident of its kind.
A few months ago, a woman from Gaza managed to escape to Turkey after collecting $2 million by defrauding citizens residing in the Gaza Strip through a fake network. She managed to steal depositors’ money by deceiving them and claiming that she would invest their money but ended up disappearing.
With Najjar, whose followers reached 250,000, all of whom are interested in digital currencies and investment, it all started when he began publishing on social media platforms, as he introduced digital currencies to his followers and told them that such trade would bring them great benefit. Through his YouTube channel, he was able to talk about the future of digital currencies, how to invest in them and the most profitable projects. He inspired confidence for a wide segment of citizens who wanted to invest in this field.
In one of his YouTube episodes, Jalal discusses investing in digital currencies
In early June, Jalal’s followers were surprised to find that his accounts on social media websites were closed and that he disappeared with $1 million in a portfolio he claimed was for investment purposes. Dozens of Gazan citizens who expressed their confidence in Najjar deposited money and fell prey to a scam that led them to lose large sums of money.
Given the increase in cases of electronic fraud, the Ministry of Economy issued a decision prohibiting citizens from buying, trading, advertising or promoting any commodity, product or service through online or pyramid shopping by any electronic or non-electronic means. The decision was issued in the wake of complaints made to the competent governmental authorities about exposure to online fraud.
Meanwhile, Walid Toheimeh, 38, fell victim to fraud by Najjar after he initially deposited an amount of $1,000 and made a profit of $150. This made him trust Najjar and led him to deposit an amount of $3,000 in Najjar’s portfolio, but he disappeared, just like other fraudsters.
Toheimeh told Al-Monitor that he graduated from university several years ago and took courses in the field of online shopping to provide for himself after losing a job opportunity, but he said he no longer trusts this kind of investment and does not advise anyone to embark on such an experience.
Haneen Atweh, 28, explained to Al-Monitor that working in the field of shopping, despite the presence of fraud, is often beneficial to those interested in this field, as it can turn huge profits or entail losses just like any normal trade.
She said that the increasing interest of citizens as a result of their difficult circumstances and their desire to obtain money has led to increasing fraud, but those who want to enter this field need to have complete knowledge of the field and always double-check the identity of the source they are dealing with.
In this context, Maher al-Tabbaa, a financial and economic expert, told Al-Monitor that 40% of the young men and women in the Gaza Strip work in the field of electronic shopping, as more and more private institutions offer training activities in the Gaza Strip with the aim of fighting unemployment. This led so many citizens to embark on this journey with confidence to turn a certain profit without any consideration of the possibility of fraud.
Tabbaa said that online shopping violates the electronic transactions law in Palestine regarding commercial transactions, and this field is prohibited due to the increasing level of fraud and because it is difficult for the government to access the data of fraudsters. This, he concluded, made the government warn against electronic shopping programs.