COVID-19: 'WhatsApp communities' provide assistance, but racketeers prosper as well.
Crooks use the messaging app to bargain for emergency supplies, such as Remdesivir injections, oxygen cylinders, or any other device.
When anyone posts a message in a WhatsApp community about an urgent necessity, crooks instantly notice and begin sending private messages, despite the fact that the group has shared contact slots.
Hyderabad: With the number of Coronavirus cases on the rise, the associated problems too have grown. There are several WhatsApp groups that have cropped up to assist those in desperate need of help.
These groups assist those in need with details on care, plasma supply, oxygen cylinders, oxygen concentrators, and the Covid-19 emergency medications. A few groups are also helping patients in obtaining hospital beds, obtaining food for those in isolation or quarantine, and gaining access to newly established centres for patients with minor symptoms.
Each of these groups has been steadily growing in membership as more people step forward to support the afflicted patients and their families. They have facts at the tips of their fingers.
As one would expect, several fraudsters and black marketers have joined these groups. When someone in the group posts a message about an urgent necessity, crooks immediately notice and begin sending private messages, despite the fact that the group has shared contact slots. The bargaining for emergency products begins here, whether it's for Remdesivir injections, oxygen cylinders, or some other emergency object.
Needless to say, any deal they may reach with the desperate and poor pays off handsomely for these criminals.
On Tuesday (May 4th) night, Hussain, an IT employee, needed Remdesivir injections. There was a severe scarcity of this medication. When a proposal was made on the group, a slew of black marketers jumped in to offer their assistance.
“This will create a tense situation. If we don’t buy from one, there are others in wait. In an emergency situation, we end up spending a lot of time, haggling over rates etc,” he said.
An international school teacher, on condition of anonymity, told a news agency, “We school teachers created a group in Telegram and added those who wanted to extend some help to the Covid-affected. This group comprises some 8,000 participants. There has been a lot of good work happening in this group. Many have taken up counseling work too; there are people who started providing food for those infected near their house. But there are fraudsters too. They have been marketing the medical emergency medicines and equipment at higher rates. One person was selling Remdesivir injections for as high as 50,000. There are also such deals on oxygen cylinders,” she said
Speaking to a leading news agency, Rachakonda police commissioner Mahesh Bhagwat said, “Sixteen such networks have been busted. They were into the black marketing of Remdesivir injections. Around 70 persons have been arrested. All the leads we got were through the social media networks.”
“In these two days, we arrested a lady doctor who was black marketing these injections. In another case, a reputed hospital’s duty doctor was caught while black marketing Remdesivir vials,” he said.
The commissioner appealed to the public to call 9490617111 if they have any information about such rackets.