Covid Patients in India Warned About Scammers Selling Fake Medicines and Cures

Desperate Covid patients in India are being preyed on by unethical con artists looking to make a quick profit

India is a hotbed of covid infections with figures skyrocketing across the country and no access to hospital beds for new patients. It’s a fair assessment to say the country’s questionable medical infrastructure has been overwhelmed and desperate patients are looking to any and every avenue to access help and medicines for themselves or family members.

Into this breach, have stepped the scammers. They are without morals and are concerned only with profiteering from the misery. If the fake medicines they sell you lead to your death, they couldn’t care. If they take your life savings to sell you a space in a hospital that doesn’t exist, they couldn’t care. They have your money and that is all that interests them. Indian newspapers are rife with stories of woe and horror, showcasing the darker side of humanity.

The IndianExpress has just published a story entitled, Covid-19 patient dies after getting fake remdesivir injections, culpable homicide charges have been invoked against the accused. An article in The Hindu highlights just how cybercrooks are stealing from the vulnerable. In a recent case, a person lost ₹40,000 to a cyber crook who asked for money to arrange an ICU bed at a private hospital and after taking the money in advance, switched off his phone. The article below, another death linked to black-market remdesivir.

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How to Stay Safe

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We are indebted to Sugandh Rakha for the following advice he is sharing on social media, via Twitter in an effort to support his thread and address these con-artists and keep victims safe, we’ve reprinted the content of the Twitter thread below for ease of access. You can unroll the entire thread here. This information is reprinted with his consent and we encourage readers to share this as broadly as possible. For the most part, Sugandh advocates common-sense steps and no matter how desperate you become, take a moment to verify details and ask friends for their advice.

Tips to avoid Remdesivir/Tocilizumab/Covid-19 scams:

  • Do a Twitter search and Google search on the phone number and account number provided to you. Check if there are other people complaining about the fraud. Fraudsters will validate their own numbers, so watch out for scam alerts.
  • Remdesivir needs to be kept between 2–8 Celsius at all times. Hence, even if you get the injection from the black market, it would have probably lost its efficacy due to incorrect maintenance of cold storage.
  • If you have never spoken to the seller on phone or in person, that’s a red flag. Scammers tend to use WhatsApp messages/SMS only. This helps multiple people operate the same number. Business accounts are also very common. Insist on talking to them on phone (not WhatsApp call).
  • Ask a trusted friend to cross verify. Tell him/her to pose as an independent buyer.
  • Check this thread for known Scammers. If you find any scammers or black marketers add them to this thread.

Editors note: Facebook also provides a reverse search for telephone numbers. We recommend using it as another tool, simply enter the telephone number in the Facebook search box.

Things scammers/black-marketers commonly say:

  1. “This is from a family of a patient that didn’t survive.”
  2. “I will courier the injection to you.” Even if they do courier it, the product’s efficacy would probably have been lost because of the summer heat during the travel.

Here is the original thread, and you can expand this directly to Twitter if you’d like to contribute to the conversation or add scammer numbers, you could be saving a life. Medika Life will check this thread and add the numbers you contribute to this article, please be sure to include the area you live in.

India’s government has issued a notice that it has attached all legal supplies of remdesivir and tocilizumab. These are being channeled to hospitals and this is your safest option for securing medication. Speak directly to your nearest clinic or hospital. Here’s another Twitter thread on the announcement.

Stay safe and try and protect your loved ones by avoiding dangerous fake medications sold by online scammers. If it looks too good to be true, then it probably is and if you’ve fallen victim to a scammer, please share the experience. It will save others.

Please also keep in mind that almost all these medicines that are being sold need to be very carefully stored and transported to ensure they retain their effectiveness. Black market products, even if they are “legitimate” are almost always rendered useless because of failure to store or transport the medicines correctly. It is also a very simple operation to replace the contents of a vial with something else. You have no guarantee at all if you choose to buy from a scammer, no matter how convincing they sound.

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