There’s a fresh wave of scams emerging this year as the Covid crisis in India worsens. We’ve always known scammers to take advantage of people in vulnerable times, but they’ve sunk to new lows this year. Here’s what to look for.
How do these scams work?
As hospitals run out of beds and oxygen, scammers are spreading their phone numbers, claiming to sell various medicines / oxygen cylinders.
Once this number is contacted, the scammers ask for money to be transferred as an advance payment. They typically offer oxygen, Remdesivir and essential medical supplies.
After the scammer has received payment, they block the number or switch their own number off, becoming unreachable. This leaves people robbed of money, precious time and without the medical care needed.
How do I know if it’s a scam?
We’ve reported on scams since the start of the pandemic. As recent as December 2020 we wrote about scams emerging at the start of the vaccine rollout. It makes us angry and sad to know that scammers target people at their most vulnerable. But we can share some tips about how to recognise these scams.
Firstly, check the numbers you are contacting for medical care or supplies. Truecaller might already list them as spam! Others have turned to social media to vent their frustration and warn others of fraudulent numbers.
Secondly, oxygen cylinders are on the market for hugely inflated prices to take advantage of desperate, sick people. On the other hand, if the price for an oxygen cylinder or Remdesivir seem too good to be true, it probably is. So, be wary of high prices and low prices, both can indicate a seller whose real intention is to rob you of your money.
- Note: if you have already bought medicine, check that it is real. Newspapers have reported fake medicines being sold. They can usually be identified by spelling and design errors on the packaging.
What can I do about it?
Truecaller recommends that you update your spam list regularly. This gives you the best protection against fraudsters. Be wary of any numbers offering medical care, and take steps to make sure they are genuine. Search online, or make sure to update your Truecaller Android app next week to make use of our verified Covid Healthcare Directory.
Be wary of posting private information publicly. Open source journalists at Bellingcat have published analysis showing the severity of the crisis and how it is leaving many desperate families posting information publicly and leaving them open to scams and harassment.
Report Scammers. If you can help one other person or family avoid a scam, then this small act is worthwhile.
Try to buy from businesses or people you can trust. Beware of sending full payment before receiving medical items. If possible, ask for cash on delivery.
Truecaller recommends that you update your spam list regularly, to give you the best protection against fraudsters. And if you don’t have the app, download it from the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store.