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

Mayank Jain, an IT professional from Gurugram, was looking for oxygen cylinders for a Covid-19 cheerful friend who had been admitted to a nearby hospital. Since the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, Mayank Jain has been working from his hometown of Jaipur in Rajasthan.

He joined a WhatsApp community where his friends exchanged leads to support him in this crisis to find leads on oxygen supplies.

One of the oxygen suppliers had quoted him Rs 27,500 for a 50 kg cylinder. He’d gotten his contact information from a WhatsApp forum. Mayank Jain approached the supplier, who declined his request unless he was paid in advance.

“I told him I would pay cash on delivery because I suspected a scam,” Mayank Jain told India Today TV.

However, on Friday, he was informed that his friend’s oxygen saturation (SpO2) had fallen to 80 and that the temporary oxygen provided by the local hospital was about to expire. He didn’t have a choice but to take the risk. He paid an advance of Rs 5,000 and asked the suppliers to process his order.covid, crisis and frauds: how oxygen scammers are duping desperate patients - coronavirus outbreak news

Mayank Jain was told that due to high demand [for the oxygen cylinders], he needed to pay at least half the price upfront to start the order.

“I then transferred another 9,000 rupees to the account they given and asked them to submit the cylinder as soon as possible,” he explained. The vendor then requested that Mayank Jain submit details about the patient, such as his name, address, Aadhaar details, attendant’s contact information, and his Aadhaar details, which he promptly did.

A few minutes later, Mayank was told by the vendor that they only had one cylinder left and that he would have to pay the total price to get it for his friend. Mayank disconnected the call, sensing an impending scam, but later relented.

“I sensed the danger, but transferred the remaining sum (Rs 13,500), thinking that my friend might have a chance of receiving the support, and pleaded with them not to jeopardize my friend’s life for money, and they asked me to trust them,” he clarified.

When Mayank inquired about the status of the oxygen cylinder delivery after some time, he was told to pay an additional Rs 15,000. Mayank, sure that it was a fraud, demanded that the money be refunded immediately, but all of his efforts were futile. He contacted the Delhi Police cyber helpline number, but he was forced to file a complaint with the Rajasthan Police due to jurisdiction problems.covid-hit indians are falling prey to oxygen and remdesivir scams — quartz india

Shikha Tikoo, who runs volunteer services and assists Covid-affected families with checked tools gathered from online channels, has a more bizarre tale to share.

In a recent Twitter post, Shikha linked a 58-year-old Covid patient in Delhi to a vendor claiming to be a confirmed oxygen supplier. In this case, however, the supplier told the patient’s family his identification cards, PAN card, and the Aadhaar card of the company’s purported chairman to build its credentials.

As given by the company representative, the chairman’s name was searchable on Google and corresponded to the image on the ID cards.

“I called this number because it was labelled as a confirmed lead,” Tikoo explained to India Today TV. “He quoted me a price that I thought was fair, Rs 6500 for 55L, and said he could have it delivered to the patient.” Tikoo linked this lead to the patient’s family in Delhi. The family then made a Rs 3,500 advance payment. Later, when the family was asked to pay an extra Rs 6,000 for kits and shipping, Tikoo detected a problem and requested an immediate refund from the company’s representatives.

Her phone number was immediately disconnected and then blocked as soon as she did so. The patient’s family received neither a refund nor an oxygen tank.

India Today TV contacted SBSCTM, but Pankaj Singh Bhadauria was unavailable for comment. His associate, who answered the phone, stated that Bhadauria was aware of the misuse of his identity but did not provide any additional information regarding any legal proceedings from his end.covid-19: indians desperate for oxygen and medicines are falling for online scams

When asked, the associate said, “He is capable enough, has strong contacts everywhere, including the media, and he doesn’t need to explain anything to anybody.”

Kirti Sharma, another Delhi resident, contacted the same network for oxygen cylinders for a Covid patient in the national capital. However, Sharma saw red flags in their pricing and stopped the fraud attempt.

“I told the patient’s attendant not to pay anything ahead of time. I’ve seen far too many stories in the last few days (about online scams purporting to supply oxygen or medicines) “She told India Today TV about it. Kirti Sharma also alerted other volunteers to the existence of this scam network.

Opportunistic people are trying to cheat people and use their money in the name of vaccinations, physicians, and healthcare staff. In these difficult times, when everyone is trying to save their families and loved ones, they are willing to spend a lot of money, but a few greedy people who have lost their humanity are trapping them in their web and stealing their money.

Article Proofread and Edited by Shreedatri Banerjee

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