Internet armchair critics across Hong Kong were united in their distaste for a male backpacker who was seen begging for money in various districts in Hong Kong.

One critic, Carmen Suen, said he saw the man, who had a backpack and was dressed in a windbreaker, place a sign on the ground which asked for money from people outside a shopping mall in Tsueng Kwan O, the New Territories, Sing Tao Daily reported.

The sign, written in Chinese, said: “I’m facing some difficulties. Would you be so kind as to give me a few dollars to buy food and for my allowance. Thank you”.

Suen found the man suspicious so she stood aside and observed him. Suen was surprised that when a passer-by gave the man HK$300 (US$38), the man did not leave but continue his fundraising.

She suspected the man was operating a scam, pretending to be a penniless backpacker to abuse people’s generosity.

Suen posted the photo and her thoughts on the individual to a Facebook group. Other commentators left messages saying they saw a man with the same outfit and sign asking for money in Tsuen Wan in the New Territories, Kowloon’s Kwun Tong and Chai Wan on Hong Kong Island.

Another netizen, Chapman Cheng, said he had followed the “backpacker” and found he worked in tandem with another man, with one operating as lookout while the other was begging.

Other critics called upon people not to give donations, warning that criminal syndicates may be the ultimate beneficiaries. They advised people who meet this “backpacker” to report the case to the police.

Begging is illegal in Hong Kong. Any person who begs or gathers alms at any public place may contravene Section 26A of the Summary Offences Ordinance. On conviction for a first or second offence, the person is liable to a fine of $500 and to imprisonment for one month; and for a third or subsequent offence, to a fine of $500 and imprisonment for 12 months.