Rajat Sharma

How cyber fraudsters are out to fleece people for plasma donation

I would request all to be very careful while dealing with people who demand money for plasma donation. The life of every human being is valuable and one should not fall into any trap.

A_K_B (1) (003)On a day when the world got ‘good news’ about a US bio-tech company Moderna going to start the final stage of clinical trials of its COVID-19 vaccine, there were reports of thriving rackets in Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad, where Corona patients were being duped in the name of plasma donations from recovered COVID patients.

The number of new COVID-19 infections in India is constantly on the rise, with a huge spike of 32,498 new cases recorded on Wednesday. India, presently at the third position in world tally, is going to touch one million cases within a few days. The death toll in India has now reached 24,860. There is a huge demand from critical patients fighting for their lives, for plasma taken from those who have recovered from COVID-19, and unscrupulous people are using this opportunity to make a kill.

I want to sound a note of caution. Most of these tricksters are duping relatives of patients by saying that the blood plasma has been donated by those who recovered, but in reality, this is not so. Several gangs are active in Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad, which claim that they have plasma donors who have recovered from COVID-19. These gangs are active on social media through WhatsApp and other platforms.

The largest number of cyber fraud complaints have come from Mumbai, a Corona hot spot, where 96,000 cases have been reported and 5,400 patients have died so far. There is acute shortage of plasma donors for critical patients.

These cyber criminal gangs creat WhatsApp groups and offer plasma donors for needy patients. They ask relatives to contact them directly. Since a COVID-19 recovery report and fitness certificate are required, these criminals manage to get fake certificates to dupe the relatives.

Maharashtra Police IG Cybercrime revealed that in some cases, the gangs extorted Rs 10 lakh for a plasma donor. Four teams of Maharashtra cyber crime cell police scoured through the dark web and found the details of the con trick. Rs 30 to 40 thousand was being demanded for 40 millilitre plasma.

In some cases, the gangs con relatives to transfer the money online to suspicious accounts and then vanish. In many other cases, gang members visit hospitals to find out which COVID-19 patients having co-morbidities like diabetes, kidney, liver and heart diseases, require blood plasma therapy. They then manage to bring in fake donors who never underwent COVID treatment. Transfusion of blood plasma from a non-COVID donor to a COVID patient is a risky affair, and the patient can lose his or her life.

In Delhi, assembly Speaker Ram Niwas Goel was duped of his money by a trickster Rahul alias Abdul Kareem Rana. The cheat claimed he was a doctor from RML Hospital, who has recovered from COVID and was willing to donate for Goel’s relative, who needed plasma therapy. The man extracted money from the Speaker twice through Google Pay and then vanished. The speaker complained to police, and the trickster was arrested. Delhi Police has appealed to the public to be careful while accepting fake offers on social media.

In Hyderabad, a cyber hacker calling himself as Sandeep Reddy extracted Rs 5000 as ‘travel charge’ from the grandson of a female COVID patient. He also extracted Rs 3000 from a woman named Prerna, and then vanished.

Cheating people during a pandemic is a serious crime and it must be curbed immediately. These criminals and tricksters are not human beings as they lack basic sensitivity. Their only motive is to earn money by hook or by crook.

With plasma therapy emerging as a reliable line of treatment for critical COVID patients, there is tremendous rush among the people for getting plasma donations. These tricksters are taking undue advantage of this situation. Though the Indian Council of Medical Research has prepared guidelines for plasma donations, these are being flouted.

A PIL was filed in Delhi High Court recently seeking directive to make blood plasma mandatory for all those who have recovered from COVID-19, but the court declined saying it cannot compel anybody to donate blood. Blood banks have been opened by Delhi government, but the demand for plasma from recovered COVID patients is high.

I would request all to be very careful while dealing with people who demand money for plasma donation. The life of every human being is valuable and one should not fall into any trap.

The COVID-19 pandemic will continue so long as an effective vaccine does not come in the market. Though US President Donald Trump has tweeted ‘Great News on Vaccines’, we have to remain patient because scientists take their own time to reach a final conclusion. We must not tinker with the clinical trials. I have spoken to several experts. They are unanimous on one point: an effective COVID vaccine will come only by the year-end.

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