MANILA: A photo of a boy begging in the Philippine capital using a QR code went viral on social media, prompting a government body to warn about the possibility of syndicates using street children to scam people, reported Xinhua.

A netizen, who ran into the boy, said the beggar whipped out a QR code when told they had no coins. “We laughed at first, so we checked if the QR code works, and it was real, named after a certain Beverly,“ the netizen said in his Facebook post.

The National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) on Friday warned the public that a criminal syndicate might be behind the scheme.

“There are syndicates behind these activities. The syndicates haul these beggars in vans, deploy them in the streets, and collect them at night,“ NAPC vice chairperson Reynaldo Tamayo told local television.

Tamayo said parents of children begging in the streets could face a fine and not more than two years imprisonment if proven guilty.

The Philippine Statistics Authority said 18.1 per cent of the Philippines’ nearly 110 million population live below the poverty line.

Beggars in Manila streets become highly visible during the Christmas holidays, knocking on car windows for spare change.

Every year, the government’s social welfare department provides “basic needs” to beggars and keeps them out of the streets before returning them to the province. - Bernama