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This article has been written by Heena Joshi, from Team LawSikho.

Introduction

Scammers hoodwink patients into providing medicines or Oxygen cylinders but do you think, police are taking necessary action against scammers? Through this article, I will share my overall experience till now, on fighting against COVID scammers and helping more victims so that they come forward to complaint and take help from police to catch scammers. 

By reading this article, you will not only get to know my experience with cops in fighting for victims, but you will also feel the grievance of the victim as I have heard victim crying on phone call and sharing with me, how they lost their friend, relative, mother just because they could not arrange medicine on time. I felt pain when the victim said that they spent thousands but still failed to arrange medicines just because they met the scammer but not the genuine seller, who failed them to arrange medicines for their loved ones. Their pain shattered me and made me to think if I could do something, victim’s pain made it obligatory for me to reach police stations and take necessary legal action against offender and with a help of advocates and law students in different states according to the jurisdiction of the complaint, but going to police station during scorching summer and terror of COVID-19 disease was not that bigger as compare to reaching police and convince them to lodge complaint was far more difficult. 

They were having their own excuses and allegation against me when I reach them for first complaint to be lodged at Vasant Kunj police station, Delhi,  like I am violating lockdown rules and regulation, they made us to wait and go out from police station because its not allowed to enter in police station during lockdown, it was a tough fight but finally they received our complaint and gave us acknowledgement number, I felt happy that I did something for someone it add reason in my mind why I am advocate today I felt proud on myself for being an advocate. This does not end here but I started helping more and more victims trying to reach them every day and victims also feel hope through this little effort. But even after filling complaints I am not satisfied with it because here motive is not just increase list of complaints but asking for help for strict action against such activity, In India generally fraudulent activities are taken for granted because they can be quashed easily, they can be solved easily by our arbitration and mediation centres, but here case is different these are scams that can become reason for someone’s death and big emotional distress to the person. Medical emergency is the emergency that can make anyone desperate for solutions and any possible way out for medical needs.

Let’s first discuss in increasing complaints of COVID-19 fraud since last year and this will make us to realise its seriousness 

The Corona scam has become a very common headline for newspapers from 2020. But no one thought for its solution and I have hardly seen any efforts against it. According to “ The Hindu” there is 80% of India Inc foresees an increase in fraud cases in the next 2 years, which means if there will be no action then there are 80% chances that it would rise in the next 2 years. There are so many reasons behind these fraudulent activities, first and most important one is remote working arrangements and changes in business modules and techniques which have made it difficult and challenging to understand fraud related vulnerabilities. Secondly, what I feel is that lockdown restrictions and strictness on work have killed inner peace, and forced the lower class to scam others for their survival during this tough time where people don’t have work and money for survival.

Is it an ample step, to just receive a complaint and give it an acknowledgement number?  

Giving an acknowledgement number is not the solution, there should be instant action and investigation against such complaints; there is need for more strictness from police on COVID scam, as strict as they are for Mask and Rs. 2000/- fine. There are divergent ways to scam a desperate patient, every time I see news, it always appears with how con tricks are done to innocent people for money.

So I have found it is stupidity that just acknowledging a number or writing it in a daily diary is not justice to the victim, it will only delay investigation and result in waste of time.

What should be the first step from the police after receiving a complaint is simple: that is investigation, and I agree on that but in what time is there any definite time to take initiative, how many days do it need 3 days, 5 days or what? Victim files a complaint and waits if police initiate them about the scammer but there is only an endless wait. There should be more seriousness to stop such scam activities. Nation is in big need and support from its police force to act actively against such crimes. Websites like cybercrime.gov.in should work rapidly and there should be an instant action against such fraudulent activities.

What steps can you take initially in person against a scammer?

We know our police take our complaints about granted. There is a need for a forthcoming approach from the police but unfortunately, they are not that much supportive. So, how can we tackle the situations from our side? Here, I would share my experience on helping one victim to get her money back, so what we did is, we requested her, ICICI bank through email and customer care number and informed them that some scam has been held with us, after receiving our request, the bank closed offender’s account as well as created dummy amount which could be used within 42 days after proper investigation, meanwhile she also submitted her complaint at a police station as well as to show the seriousness of crime to the bank, so that, the bank also would take it seriously. What else can be done here is try to detect your offender or try to find him out yourself through evidence and the bank details you have with you or inform the cyber crime cell and your bank as well. You can share it on social media so that you get support from all possible ways.

There is a need for awareness among society regarding tricky COVID-19 scams

During tough times, we are flattered as emotionally weak person and we miserably look for solutions, this is the situation where scammers take advantage and play their con games, on such things. It is important for us that we get updated with news and try to stay calm and look for better solutions here as well. 

I will share with you the most common and tricky scams that can easily trick you, and prominent names are being used by scammers to win trust, like CIPLA foundation, these scammers are using this company’s logo and name to trick people. As they created bank accounts in the name of CIPLA foundation, so make sure you do not make payments.  I would suggest not to trust it just because the bank account is in the name of CIPLA foundation. 

On 6 May, there was news on “The Hindu”, regarding the selling of beds for COVID patients in 1.2 lacs, but in this case, police took actions and they arrested the offender, but the main while, reading this news I realised why police is not taking actions where the scammed amount is only in thousands not in lacs. There is a high requirement of Remdesivir, Oxygen Concentrator and Oxygen Cylinders for COVID patients; these are the main products for which innocent people are getting conned. There is a high quantity of fake Remdesivir medicine being sold across India. So make sure you buy the original one for that you can take help from certified and well-known doctors. Even so, there are so many videos on the internet that are made to recognize the original Remdesivir. 

There is one more name that scammers used to con people is Omega Impex, it is not any pharmaceutical or medical company but it is an Industrial equipment supplier in Delhi. This name, you may not be able to find in the news. That’s why I have found it important to share this name here. I just want to request here not to trust social media leads blindly no matter if personally verified written on it.  This is a tough time. We all need each other’s support with this article. I want to request the police and our government to support us on these kinds of actions against COVID-19 scams.

References


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