Covid, crisis and frauds: How oxygen scammers are duping desperate patients

Mayank Jain, a Gurugram-based IT skilled had been trying to find oxygen cylinders for his Covid-19 optimistic good friend who has been admitted to a neighborhood hospital. Mayank Jain has been working from his hometown Jaipur in Rajasthan for the reason that onset of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

In order to search out leads on oxygen sources for his good friend, he joined a WhatsApp group the place his associates had been sharing results in assist him on this crisis.

He had acquired a quote of Rs 27,500 for a 50 kg cylinder from one of many oxygen suppliers. He had acquired his contact particulars on the WhatsApp group. Mayank Jain contacted the provider who refused to entertain his request if he wasn’t paid prematurely.

“I told him that I would pay the cash on delivery because I sensed a possible fraud,” Mayank Jain advised India Today TV.

However, on Friday, issues modified when he was advised that his good friend’s Oxygen Saturation (SpO2) had dropped all the way down to 80, and the non permanent oxygen organized by the native hospital was about to complete. He had no different possibility however to take the danger. He made a sophisticated cost of Rs 5,000 and requested the suppliers to course of his order.

Mayank Jain was advised that resulting from excessive demand [for the oxygen cylinders], he should pay at the least half the worth prematurely, as a way to provoke the order.

“Then I transferred another 9,000 rupees to the account provided by them and asked them to send the cylinder right away,” he stated. The vendor then requested Mayank Jain to ship particulars of the affected person similar to his identify, handle, Aadhaar particulars, attendant’s contact and his Aadhaar particulars, which have been instantly offered by him.

A couple of minutes later, Mayank was knowledgeable by the seller that they’d just one cylinder left and, to get it for his good friend, he should make the total cost. Sensing an imminent fraud, Mayank disconnected the decision however relented later.

Also Read | No consignment of 3,000 oxygen concentrators lying with Customs, clarifies Centre

“I sensed the risk but transferred the rest of the amount (Rs 13,500) thinking that my friend might have a shot at receiving the help and pleaded with them to not compromise my friend’s life for money and they asked me to trust them,” he defined.

After a while, when he enquired to test the standing of the oxygen cylinder supply, Mayank was advised to pay an extra Rs 15,000. Sure that it was a rip-off, Mayank requested them to refund the cash instantly, however all his makes an attempt went in useless. He contacted the Delhi Police cyber helpline quantity however later needed to register a grievance with the Rajasthan Police resulting from jurisdiction points.

Identity Theft and More

Mayank Jain is among the many victims who’ve not too long ago been duped by the “Covid SOS Scammers” concentrating on 1000’s of people that are utilizing social media posts to hunt assist in these desperate instances.

Shikha Tikoo, who runs volunteer applications and has been volunteering to assist Covid-hit households with verified sources aggregated from on-line platforms, has a more strange story to inform.

Shikha not too long ago related a 58-year-old Covid affected person in Delhi to a vendor touted as a verified oxygen provider in a Twitter submit. In this case, nonetheless, the provider, to determine its credentials, confirmed the household of the affected person his identification playing cards, PAN card in addition to Aadhaar card of the corporate’s purported chairman.

The chairman’s identify offered by the corporate consultant was out there on Google search and matched with the image on the ID playing cards.

Also Read | Ministries fumble as questions raised on fate of oxygen, foreign aid rushed to Covid-hit India

“I called this number because it was tagged as a verified lead, he gave me a rate which I thought was very genuine, Rs 6500 for 55L, and he said he could have it delivered to the patient,” Tikoo advised India Today TV.

Tikoo related the affected person’s household in Delhi to this lead. The household then made an advance cost of Rs 3,500. Later, when the household was requested to pay an extra Rs 6,000 for kits and supply, Tikoo sensed an issue and requested the representatives of the corporate for a right away refund.

As quickly as she did, her quantity was disconnected and later blocked. The affected person’s household didn’t get a refund or the oxygen cylinder.

The individual seen within the ID playing cards was recognized because the Vice Chairman of 1 Sardar Bhagat Singh College of Technology and Management (SBSCTM) in Lucknow, whose actual identify was Pankaj Singh Bhadauria.

India Today TV reached out to SBSCTM however Pankaj Singh Bhadauria was not out there for remark. His affiliate who answered the decision, nonetheless, confirmed that Bhadauria was conscious of the misuse of his identification however didn’t present any additional particulars about any authorized actions from his finish.

When persuaded additional to difficulty a press release, the affiliate stated, “He is capable enough, has good relations everywhere including the media and he doesn’t need to explain anything to anybody”.

Fake ID offered to Covid affected person’s household

Another Delhi resident, Kirti Sharma, additionally got here in touch with the identical community for oxygen cylinders for a Covid affected person within the nationwide capital. But Sharma noticed crimson flags of their pricing and blocked the fraud try.

“I instructed the patient’s attendant not to pay anything in advance. I have seen too many stories in the last few days [about online frauds in the name of supplying oxygen or medicines],” she advised India Today TV. Kirti Sharma additionally knowledgeable different volunteers about this rip-off community.

Also Read | Covaxin effective against Brazilian, British and Indian variants of coronavirus, studies show

Fake Doctors Society

India Today TV additionally got here throughout a community of suspicious profiles pretending to be docs and posting purported “verified” leads on the anti-viral drug remdesivir. Some of those “sock puppet accounts” on Twitter are being known as out by different customers who discovered the data pretend.

These accounts, apparently representing docs, have been created very not too long ago and have zero to no followers.

Newly created community of sock puppet accounts claiming to supply remdesivir

Hands of Law Tied by Jurisdictions

Despite the truth that such fraudulent transactions are completed by way of traceable on-line cost strategies similar to UPI and checking account transfers, these gangs proceed to function with impunity resulting from complicated jurisdiction points.

In the case of Mayank Jain, the situation of the sufferer was Jaipur, whereas he was duped by the pretend oxygen suppliers in NCR. Jain tried to register a grievance with the Delhi Police cyber cell first, however he was advised by the police to get it registered with both Gurugram or Rajasthan Police.

He was later knowledgeable by the Rajasthan Police officers that the numbers presumably belonged to Jharkhand, which makes issues much more difficult by way of jurisdiction.

Some of the victims India Today TV spoke with stated the telephone operator’s tunes on the community seemed like Bengali.

In many circumstances, sufferer households are usually so consumed with the medical necessities related to the remedy of a Covid affected person that regardless of being conned, they don’t have the bandwidth to register an official grievance with the police.

Some of them, nonetheless, return to social media to inform their tales. Delhi Police Special Commissioner Dr Muktesh Chander on Monday stated that the police had “caught a number of persons duping the public on the pretext of supplying oxygen cylinders, concentrators, remdesivir & other lifesaving medicine or equipment.”

He additional requested folks to not ship advance cash to anybody with out checking their credentials and shopping for from dependable sources solely.

Delhi Police have additionally issued a Covid-19 helpline quantity — 23469900 — to report about malpractice similar to overcharging by ambulances, pretend Covid-19 medicines, black advertising and marketing and hoarding of medicines, oxygen cylinders/concentrators, and so on.

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