It all began with a phone call from an unknown number pretending to be a student volunteer working for an NGO.
She said there is a little baby girl suffering from cancer who is admitted to AIIMS hospital and she needs to be operated with chemotherapy immediately. And for that, they required several funds.
I thought it as a regular scam call and with frustration, I hung up the phone.
A few hours later, a friend of mine calls me and asks whether I had donated the NGO that called me. Apparently, he had donated them several times and had also obtained income tax benefits as a deduction under Section 80G of the Income Tax Act. The caller had asked him for more leads, so he had forwarded them my contact number.
He also told me that the NGO is Govt. approved and is legitimate in their operations.
I felt a pang of guilt. I started cursing myself for abusing the caller.
However, a part of me was still suspicious. I went home and immediately searched for the NGO’s name on Google and visited their website. It looked authentic.
For having the safe side, I also visited the Indian Government website that my friend had forwarded and checked if the NGO was listed there. It was indeed listed and approved by the government (the notion of course).
Finally, I googled the NGO’s name followed by the word “scam”. Boom! to my surprise, the search result’s page was filled with complaints/posts by people who had donated and had investigated about every aspect of the NGO in question, like hospital receipts, IT returns, patient’s authenticity (that was available on NGO’s website), etc
Some guy had even filed an RTI with AIIMS hospital regarding their partnership with the NGO and patients’ files/case studies.
And here is the reply from AIIMS:
Isn’t it shocking?
The AIIMS hospital makes it very clear that “MISSION Heal” along with several other NGOs were never a part of their donations cell. They have also declared the list of genuine NGOs that are associated with them here.
They are able to procure a NGO certificate from Govt. Their name is been listed in Govts NGO website (ngo.india.gov.in). They have a rehabilitation center which will look real in a photograph but doesn’t have any children being admitted or served at the center.
By some spurious means they are able to obtain certificate of appreciation from PM & Health minister. They have a participation certificate for a seminar conducted at AIIMS with them .
They have procured medical records of few children treated at AIIMS. The treating doctor will usually write referral letters to medical social welfare unit of the hospitals to find out fund for treating these poor children. They have acquired these referral letters and on those letters they themselves have over written that ‘the case has been forwarded to relief India Trust/mission heal for needful’.
It’s all been published in their site. When we doubt about their authenticity they will ask us to come online and will show all these letters,certificates, NGO certification etc published on their website. On the first look, no one can doubt their genuineness.
It’s shocking and horrendous that anyone can create their NGO profile and list it on the Government website without any approval or verification process.
Role of Banks and Hospitals in Fake NGOs
These fake NGOs are operating with total impunity and with possible support from Bank officials & local police making it an even bigger racket than what one could think of.
The bank officials are aware of the fraud funds collected by NGOs in their bank accounts. Many people also complained about the NGOs to the Banks that are holding their loot, yet they never audit their accounts.
These NGOs have close ties with the local hospitals from where they get fake treatment papers/bills and patient case studies. They are even allowed to take photos of the patients admitted to the hospitals, without the patient’s consent. All this is just to showcase on their website as proof.
The fact that they have their own offices & rehabilitation centre (that is available only for photo-shoot), shows the level at which they are operating without any fear of the law.
Uncovering some other facts, you will be surprised to know that there are around 3 million estimated registered NGOs in India. Only a small fraction of it has actually filed IT returns in their lifetime.
The other large fraction of NGOs is busy employing students and teaching them to extort money from people over the phone call. Some of these student volunteers are not even aware of the scam they are indulged in and are usually happy with a 30% commission on the donation amount they receive.
Some NGOs are taking advantage of the genuine NGOs to loot customers resulting in Identity theft.
For example, there is this genuine NGO named Prathams (prathams.org), which is being donated by big companies like Google. Now, some fraudsters have registered their NGO with identical name and have set up a website called prathamfoundation.org.
Anyone who has heard about Prathams would feel this fake foundation is genuine and will not give a second thought before donating.
Here is another reason to fret:
Most of these fake NGOs are being operated in the capital city of India, Delhi.
According to one of my close friend living in Delhi, no police station entertains any complaints or concerns against these fake NGOs. Basically, they are all above the law and are free to carry out their scam phone calls with total indemnity.
The only way to suppress these fake NGOs is to make everyone aware of the scam. The next time you get a call from any student volunteer, make sure you ask them the right questions and validate all the points listed in this quora post about identifying genuine NGO before making any donations.
Also, do share this article with your friends and family members. PEACE.