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What Are The Types Of Fraud One Should Be Aware Of In The Covid-19 Era?

By Debdutta Ghosh

Some time at the end of June, Delhi resident Puneet Agarwal, the nephew of Delhi Assembly Speaker Ram Niwas Goel put up a plea for plasma for treatment of Covid-19 for a close relative on his social media page.  

Blood plasma from an individual who has recovered from Covid-19 contains vital antibodies against the disease and treatment of many Covid-19 patients with such plasma has proven to be effective. Therefore blood plasma from Covid-19 recovered patients is in high demand in many parts of India. 

Soon after, a call from an individual who introduced himself to be a doctor from a well known hospital in the city was received by Agarwal. The man committed to donating his plasma since he had recently recovered from Covid-19 against a payment. But as soon as the money was digitally transferred by Agarwal, the individual went into incommunicado. 

Later the police arrested the accused following a complaint from Agarwal. The accused was identified as Abdul Karim Rana.

“During interrogation, he confessed to having cheated many people desperate for plasma,” a police officer told the media. 

These types of fraudsters are having a gala time with the rise in the cases of Covid-19 in Delhi and elsewhere in India as they take advantage of the helplessness of the panic-stricken people who themselves are infected by the disease or have close relatives and friends struggling to get treated. 

“Everyone needs to be cautious. Any posts on social media to seek help might attract criminals or fraudsters to earn easy money. Better to take help from someone known,” cautioned the spokesperson of Delhi Police.

The pandemic is being taken advantage of by thugs. Five persons were arrested recently who were trying to smuggle 21,000 packets of fake blood plasma from Punjab to a firm in Mumbai, Maharashrta. 

And then there are thugs who take advantage of people’s blind belief in occult and rituals that arguably can cure novel coronavirus infections and disinfect homes with ‘pujas’ or religious offerings. There have been instances of families being duped by such scammers, some of whom even present themselves to be tech-savvy, English-speaking people. Even well-educated people have got duped at their hands once advanced payment for such occult rituals are transferred digitally through payment wallets. 

Then there are the usual thugs who offer fake virus tests, mystery potions and pills to cure Covid-19, milking the opportunity created by the pandemic. While some offer mystery nasal drops for people exhibiting symptoms of the virus infection, others offer Covid-19 testing facilities at clinics where the tests are usually done by quacks.

A number of such quacks and fraudulent medical practitioners have been identified by the Delhi Medical Council (DMC).

According to Dr. Arun Gupta, the President of DMC, people are being duped because of their faith and belief in such practices. He stressed that such activities will co-exist till such time that there is a hypothesis about any medicine or treatment for the disease. It is therefore important that during a pandemic such as this, institutional quackery is strictly controlled. 

And then there are the threats of fraud online. 

According to a recent report by KPMG India, the pandemic has caused a rise in the incidents of fraud preying on the vulnerable individuals and organizations, trying to exploit this dreadful humanitarian crisis. Hence experts preparing the report have urged individuals and organizations to be vigilant and build robust mechanisms so that it is possible to reduce incident of fraud. 

With the near halt to economic activities because of restrictions imposed to reduce spread of the pandemic, consumer markets have been significantly impacted.  Profitability and cash flows of several organizations in the sector have been squeezed because of a drastic drop in demand for non-essential products and disruptions in raw material supplies. Hat has resulted in salary cuts and job losses which have consequently reduced the purchasing power of consumers amid the pandemic. 

And it is amid this environment that opportunities for organised criminals to defraud consumers and organizations have cropped up in this sector. 

The report highlights frauds related to the misuse of schemes, unnaturally inflating price by hoarding essential products, and the sale of damaged, expired or counterfeit products because of shortages of essential products that can be faced by consumers. 

The report also highlights fraud through fake online websites and social media accounts where consumers may be lured to make an advanced payment for products. But consumers are most likely to get any of the products purchased as they are will most likely never be delivered. 

There can also be incidents of increased cyber frauds as more people have started to work from home and are engaged in augmented digital transactions because of the temporary shutting down of brick-and-mortar outlets.

Experts have also noticed an increase in the offering of Covid-19 related products, templates, and hoaxes on deep and dark web markets, the report also noted. These thug sellers on the web are takin advantage of the public fear of the disease and are offering products that are claimed to serve as tests or vaccines for the disease. 

Experts have also warranted cautioned against possible incidents of fraud related to helping out small companies to take advantage of the Rs 20 lakh crore benefits that has been announced by the Indian government. These beneficial schemes to help small businesses, which include schemes such as interest/EMI waive-off for MSMEs, microloan for unorganised vendors, a moratorium of EMI for various loans up to 6-months, could be the target of these frauds. Thugs and bogus agents could loot money from companies eager to seek these benefits against a payment and never get the work done with such small companies and firms never getting the promised benefits. 

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India News Brief

19 September 2020

COVID-19 Cases:5,214,677   Deaths: 84,372

COVID-19 At a Glance 

The new guidelines issued by the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on 29 August

Metro rail will be allowed to operate with effect from 7thSeptember 2020 in a graded manner, by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MOHUA)/ Ministry of Railways (MOR), in consultation with MHA. In this regard, Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) will be issued by MOHUA.

Social/ academic/ sports/ entertainment/ cultural/ religious/ political functions and other congregations will be permitted with a ceiling of 101 persons, with effect from 21st September 2020. However, such limited gatherings can be held with mandatory wearing of face masks, social distancing, provision for thermal scanning and hand wash or sanitizer.Open air theatres will be permitted to open with effect from 21stSeptember 2020.

Schools, colleges, educational and coaching institutions will continue to remain closed for students and regular class activity up to 30 September.
Online/distance learning shall continue to be permitted and shall be encouraged. However, following will be permitted, in areas outside the Containment Zones only, with effect from 21stSeptember 2020 for which, SOP will be issued by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW):

Cinema halls, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres (excluding open air theatre) and similar places remain closed.

According to MHA directive, lockdown shall continue to be implemented strictly in the Containment Zones till 30th September, 2020.

COVID-19: Highlights 

Religious Places Visit: No Touching of Deity, No Sparkling of Holy Water No Prasada in Temples Wearing Mask Thermal Screening is a must 

Shopping Malls Visit: Elderly People With 65 Years of Age and Children Below 10 Years Are Advised to Stay at Home.

Restaurant and food courts in malls to operate at 50 per cent seating capacity with a mandatory distance of six feet between tables. No common prayer mats, physical offerings like prasad, or sprinkling of holy water, in places of worship. Age and health-based restrictions on stepping out of home. Masks to be mandatory, and the Aarogya Setu app 'recommended' for all.

Use of masks, thermal screening, social distancing and sanitisation, the guidelines  require people above 65 years of age, specially  people with comorbidities, pregnant woman, and children below the age of 10 years, to stay at home. Masks are mandatory at all times, including inside restaurants

Standard Operating Procedures issued by the Indian Health Ministry 

  • International air travel, Metro rail services not allowed 

Cinema halls, gymnasiums, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres, bars and auditoriums, assembly halls and similar places; and, social/ political/ sports/ entertainment/ academic/ cultural/ religious functions/ and other large congregations will not allowed..

According to MHA guidelines, in Phase II, schools, colleges, educational/ training/ coaching institutions etc., will be opened after consultations with States and Union Territories.

There shall be no restriction on inter-State and intra-State movement of persons and goods. No separate permission or approval or e-permit will be required for such movement

But  states have the freedom to decide on public movement.

How to identify Fake News or Messeges on Social Media 

Beware of Fake News and Fake Messages on Social Media

Always follow websites or social media platforms of traditional media outlets whether newspapers, magazines,Television News Channels or Radio Stations and authentic online only media outlets.They still maintain journalism excellence and stress on reportorial talent.On the other hand, fake news websites run by people with non journalism background and promote their own ideology with fake news and disinformations and obviously conspiracy theories.

But unfortunately mainstream media also manipulates news to establish their story angle.There were various instances when News papers and TV Channels promoted fake news/conspiracy theories in the form of out of context or manipulated pictures/videos and distorted informations.

Always check the URL of any website.Some fake news websites look like the orginal and popular one the same layout,Logo but if you check the URL you may find extra words like if the orginal website's URL is www.xxx.com the duplicate one might be www.xxx.com.co or something like that so first check the URL for authentic informations.

Check whether photos are original or photoshopped.Check Google images for authenticity.You can find help from Google Reverse Images search.

Check the news sources from other websites whether they picked up the story or not.

Whether the website layout is little bit clumsy and obviously grammatical mistakes and spelling mistakes and excessive use of Sex related and sensational and hate stories.Because sex and hate sells.

Follow official websites relating to COVID-19

WHO Clarifies the disinformation about the virus:
COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in areas with hot and humid climates
Cold Weather and Snow can not kill the new coronavirus
Taking a Hot Bath Does Not Prevent COVID-19
COVID-19 Can not be transmitted through mosquito bites

Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body will not kill viruses that have already entered your body. Spraying such substances can be harmful to clothes or mucous membranes (i.e. eyes, mouth)

According to World Health Organization (WHO): Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water

Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth . If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early

Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny nose, until you recover.

If you develop fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical advice promptly as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition

Follow WHO guidelines

www.who.int

When you follow COVID-19 related news and messages from social media then check and recheck it before consuming it.Follow journalism mantra: if your mother says she loves you, check it out.

Most of the messages or informations quote different organizations like WHO, UNICEF, UNDP,Cambridge University  or other well known institutes,organizations or individual to authenticate the messeges.Check official websites of these organizations  if stories are repeated there

Forwarding messages from unknown sources or little known sources, it would be better to ignore it.

Check whether any logo like UNICEF or WHO or other organizations used in the messages which look similar to original logo.

These type of messages are full of Grammatical mistakes and spelling mistakes which are quite uncommon in original messages.

Don't rely on viral social media messages such as Coronavirus Infected Indian Currencies of Rs.500 and Rs.2,000 Notes Found, Muslim Man Spit in Food At Indian Restaurant.....Always Check Authentic Sources.

Some fake messages pretend to be real one like unofficial Twitter handle of international media organizations like BBC,CNN,Washinton Post, New York Times-check the official Twitter handles of media outlets.

You can identify fake messages if the message requests you to share it.

Beware of Fake News or Fake Photos/Videos Relating to Communal Hatred

Always check the fact checking sites if you have some doubts about the authenticity of any information or picture.

www.boomlive.in

www.altnews.in

https://check4spam.com

https://smhoaxslayer.com

www.factchecker.in

www.allsides.com

www.factcheck.org

www.newsbusters.org

www.politifact.com

www.snopes.com

www.propublica.org

The Same Method Applies to You Tube Videos Check the Source the credibility of the Source.To Check Fake You Tube Videos Check and Recheck the sources. Does the person have the legal right to the video posted? Did that person capture the video? Whether it has been altered?

But due to advancement of technology we can not really wipe out fake news.According to experts advent of  Artificial Intelligence(AI) some companies small or big one developing  technologies that can  lay digitally created script to anybody's voice  even words,sentences never said by the person.Even they a.re developing a technology which can create fake video footage,images,audios like originals.So be cautious! Rumour-mongers are active everywhere whether in physical world or cyber world.

For any further information relating to fake news and how-to search authentic informations from the internet write to us info@crimeandmoreworld.com or Whats App:+919073399779

COVID-19 Related Conspiracy Theories:
https://fsi.stanford.edu/news/china-covid19

 

 

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