Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms have become the go-to places for people looking for information about hospital beds, oxygen cylinders and other Covid 19 resources. Some of these leads are helpful as people get the help they need as their voices are amplified by sharing and re-sharing of their tweets and posts. However, there is also a flipside to the blessing that the social media community is proving to be in these times. There is a lot of misinformation, unverified leads and fake profiles that take advantage of vulnerable and desperate users seeking to get aid for their loved ones.
The fraud tweets will also have “verified” written on them with payment details more often than not. Sometimes these tweets also get amplified by influencers. Users should be wary of such tweets and first call to check if the person is indeed giving the services, and also the credentials of that person.
These scammers will behave like authentic suppliers, some will even have Google addresses with the suffix Oxygen supplier or Oxygen seller etc, to look convincing. Some scammers even pretend to be doctors. They ask for a booking amount or for the whole payment in advance. The transactions take place through online modes of payment like WhatsApp, Google Pay, PayTm or through direct bank transfer. When the payment is done and victims reach out, the scammers either block them or do not receive their calls.
Recent reports have also revealed that various companies are selling humidifiers and nebulizers in the garb of Oxygen cylinders when they are not of any use to Covid 19 patients with severe symptoms. Doctors have noted that nebulizers and humidifiers cannot work as a substitute for oxygen cylinders.
A Twitter user @Sugandhk has highlighted how the scams take place on Twitter. He noted the scammers charge the guardians based on what they think the guardian can pay, sometimes charging users 10 times of what the medicine or cylinders can cost the users.
How Covid-19 Scams Works :
1) Scammers create Covid-19 resource posts and circulate them on WhatsApp with their numbers.
2) These are further legitimized when resource portals and/or influencers unknowingly post out these numbers.
— Sugandh Rakha (@sugandh) April 23, 2021
Another Twitter user @NidhiSuresh_in a series of tweets has written about her plight saying that she paid Rs 25,000 for oxygen cylinders and did not receive the cylinder from a scammer called Sachin Agrawal.
“First he asked for 12.7k for 1 cylinder. Then he said we have to take 2 cylinders & the payment must be made immediately via Google Pay. So we paid another 12.7k. Then he called back to ask for another 6k saying GST. At this point, I pleaded with him & said we will pay whatever he wants in person. When I refused to pay the GST amount online because I got suspicious, he said cylinders are over & no more delivery. I called him all night, his phone was switched off,” Suresh wrote. She concluded the thread by sharing the Google address of the alleged scammer. The reviews under the address highlight that the person has duped many people who reached out and paid for oxygen cylinders.
Twitter user @Dhishkyaoon has highlighted about the same scammer that goes by the name of Sachin Agrawal and has noted that it is not just one person but a group of people duping people in Delhi NCR pretending to sell oxygen in Delhi NCR. “Attention Peeps!! Just came to know that there is a big group behind this and they are using different names, addresses and contact numbers to dupe people in Delhi, NCR. (So, it may be possible that Sachin Agarwal is not a real identity!),” she wrote.
Another Twitter user highlighted how her friend got duped by paying a fraudster who posed as a doctor from a blood bank. “Another Twitter user Nisha Rai_ggc on Twitter wrote, “Happened with friend, posed as a doctor from a blood bank & promised to sell plasma for 25k after we paid him 20% advance he conveniently switched off his phone & It’s sure the money is lost .@noidapolice @ipskabra @arunbothra @akashtomarips @alok24 @Uppolice please intervene”
To avoid getting duped you should keep the following in mind:
— Always check the source of your leads. Victims of fraud have noted that the scammers avoid phone calls and communicate mostly through WhatsApp, taking the money and blocking them later.
— Calling is however not enough to verify a contact. Try and get all the credentials of the person selling the resources, hopefully through the same city.
— Make the full payment only after the service is delivered to you.
— Try and check Fraud Alerts on Twitter. to see if the person you have contacted has spammed other people.
— Google in its recent blog post has noted that scammers often pose as well-known, trusted and authoritative sources. To avoid those users should directly visit sources like the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) to get the latest factual information about COVID19.