- Expatriates say private hospitals are failing to protect their information, allowing fraudsters to take advantage of the situation
- Over 100 expatriates faced fraudulence in different private hospitals in Chattogram in last six months
- 10 persons were victimised at Imperial Hospital
Abul Qasim, a Bangladeshi expatriate in the United Arab Emirates, submitted samples for the Covid-19 test at Imperial Hospital in Chattogram city on 2 December. In the afternoon of the same day, he was informed from an unknown phone number (01857627246) that his report was positive. However, the person told him that the report can be changed to negative if he pays Tk5,000.
Qasim became anxious to be Covid-19 positive as he had a flight back to the UAE the next day. So, he communicated with the person and agreed to get a negative result by paying Tk3,500.
However, upon arriving in the UAE a day later, he was diagnosed negative for the virus. After that, his family called the number several times but it was switched off.
Not only Abul Qasim, at least 10 persons faced the same fraudulence who got tested for Covid-19 at the Imperial Hospital. In the last six months, more than one hundred expatriates fell victim to such activities in different private hospitals in Chattogram.
Expatriates say private hospitals are failing to protect their information and fraudsters are taking advantage of the situation.
Nipul Das, a resident of Rangunia upazila, gave samples at Chevron Covid-19 Screening Centre in Chattogram to go to Dubai a month ago. A person called him in the afternoon on the same day and said his report came positive. He also offered Nipul to alter the result in exchange for Tk4,800 through BKash. However, when Nipul refused to pay the money, the phone was disconnected.
He contacted the Chevron authorities immediately on the issue and the hospital sent the official report via SMS which read he was Covid-19 negative.
Rashedul Hasan, director of Chevron Diagnostic Centre, has filed a general diary at Halishahar Police Station over the incident. Police said the numbers used for this scam are being used in Pabna, Sylhet, and Noakhali.
Karnafuli EPZ official Md Moinuddin also received a call on 3 November after his father in law, a Dubai expatriate, provided a sample for the Covid-19 test at Imperial Hospital. "We paid Tk3,500 via BKash to have a Covide-19 negative report. Later, my father-in-law tested negative at Dubai airport."
He said, "I was contacted from two numbers (01857627246/ 01770910964). We later called back the GP number and the person who received the phone claimed to be Dr Shahriar."
The private hospitals and diagnostic centres of the city have expressed concern over this sort of fraudulent activity.
Riaz Hossain, CEO of Imperial Hospital, told The Business Standard, "We have nothing to do with this fraudulence. We do not provide any information on customers' phones. A large part of the expatriates come to us via the travel agencies, from where the information of the customers is being leaked."
"In the last one week, the number of such scams has increased alarmingly. We have informed the Khulshi Police Station about the issue," he added.
Md Elias Chowdhury, the civil surgeon of Chattogram, said, "We have heard about this. However, we could not take action as we have not got proper information."
Chattogram Metropolitan Police (CMP) Commissioner Saleh Mohammad Tanvir told The Business Standard, "We are taking the matter seriously. We want at least one victim to meet me and tell me about their experience."
Three non-government organisations Chattogram Maternal and Child Hospital, Imperial Hospital and Chevron Clinical Laboratory in Chattogram have been approved to conduct Covid-19 tests for passengers who want to go abroad.
On average, 500-600 expatriates submit samples for the Covid-19 test in these labs every day. As per the rules, the passengers are informed about the test results within 24 hours of submitting the sample for a fee of Tk2,500. The reports are also published on the website of the Department of Health.