Fake Drugs, Recycled PPE: Scammers Worsen COVID Misery in India | Coronavirus pandemic News
From fake drugs to fire extinguishers disguised as oxygen cylinders and recycled personal protective equipment (PPE), India’s coronavirus crisis has been lucrative for its ever-inventive army of crooks, with sometimes deadly consequences.
Komal Taneja’s husband Chandrakant died breathlessly in his New Delhi home last month after the oxygen cartridge they paid $ 200 for on the internet never arrived.
“We desperately tried to find a hospital bed for a week … Two private hospitals asked us for one million rupees ($ 13,800) in advance,” AFP Komal news agency told AFP. voice cracking on the phone.
“Then we came across an online contact promising delivery of oxygen cylinders within an hour of paying 15,000 rupees ($ 205). When we did, they asked for more money, then stopped responding, ”Komal added.
Chandrakant, 36, who worked at the stock exchange, died on May 1, leaving his housewife to seek employment to care for her sick parents.
India has a long history of bold scams scamming ordinary people, including beyond its borders.
In just one typical case, in December, police dismantled a call center that allegedly defrauded 4,500 Americans out of $ 14 million.
Impersonating American officials, they told the victims that their bank accounts were being used by drug cartels and that the only option was to convert their assets into Bitcoin, which the gang would then cash in.
An elaborate scam involving police and medics that emerged in 2019 saw hundreds of Haryana villagers declared dead in traffic accidents to seek insurance.
Investigators say many crooks have turned their attention to scamming desperate COVID-19 patients and relatives as India suffers from a devastating coronavirus wave.
Narang, an executive with a private company in Noida, said he was the victim of a sophisticated scam as he desperately searched for an oxygen concentrator for a sick friend.
“I came across a link for a supplier that looked genuine and even had a catalog with different models. The prices were also competitive, ”Narang told AFP.
“I spoke with a person on the phone. He asked for about 45,000 rupees ($ 616) in two installments. I was sure it was genuine and even recommended this supplier to another acquaintance.
The device never arrived.
Narang’s case is one of at least 600 police investigations launched in New Delhi in just recent weeks with people desperate for oxygen, hospital beds and medicine.
“These criminals saw it as an opportune moment to make an entrance,” Shibesh Singh, a senior Delhi police officer, told AFP.
His Crime Branch teams have already arrested many crooks, including a gang that manufactured and sold counterfeit doses of the antiviral drug Remdesivir for up to 40 times the market price.
“These people would produce fake vials that cost them around 20 rupees (30 cents) and (they) sell them in the market for anything over 10,000 rupees,” Singh said.
In another case, one gang repainted fire extinguishers and sold them as oxygen cylinders, while another posed as doctors offering non-existent hospital beds.
This week, six men were reportedly arrested on suspicion of washing, repackaging and selling several tons of used surgical gloves from hospitals.
“We can only urge people to be very careful when contacting these contacts for online help,” Singh said.
Some victims are calling for severe penalties.
“Hang them all,” Narang said.
“Otherwise, the government should guarantee life imprisonment. It’s not just mental or financial, they are playing with human life.