Some days ago I have posted about a guy on Whatsapp trying to play the good old Nigerian Prince scam on me. Naturally, I did not fall for the trick, however it woke my interest. I made some investigations in these infamous broker groups on Whatsapp, and I found a very positive tendency. More and more scammers are leaving the PPE market everyday.
Why are they leaving?
Imagine the frustration of the scammers. While they could swindle sensitive documents, identities and even some money out of victims a year ago, nowadays they are having a hard time finding new prey. The immune system of this industry started to work. Buyers are being more aware, there are influencers in the industry actively dismantling scammers, and the moderators of public platforms are banning fraudulent offers every day. Half a year ago everyone was posting billions (if not trillions) OTG on LinkedIn. Today these posts get ridiculed and mocked in the comments. PPE related sub-reddits are now actively moderated and fraudsters get permanent bans (at least on the subreddit where we are part of the moderation team we ban them after 2 offenses). Even the admins of Whatsapp broker groups are removing members posting obviously fraudulent offers. So, all in all: there are only few places left for them to cast their baits for new victims… And buyers are also starting to be aware how to dodge scammers.
So why do I say they are leaving?
I have noticed a tendency. I clearly see less offers for ridiculous quantities, and there are more and more posts in the underground broker network that are not PPE related. These are obvious scams as well (see picture below), but at least they are not offering facemasks or gloves anymore. Now it seems like these people want to sell literally anything: cryptocurrencies, spices, oil, gold, real estate etc. There was even a guy selling used ambulance cars! Based on this phenomenon, we can draw a conclusion: PPE is getting less interesting for them, so they start to withdraw into the “industries” where they came from. (There is also a part of brokers that ventured into the pharmaceutical market, however most of them do not dare to cross this border.)
What does this mean for us?
I am not saying that the storm is over. There are still many fraudsters in the industry. It will take time until the supply chain of medical devices and PPE returns to normal. However, after a dark year, we can see the first rays of sunshine. And after a while the market will clear itself eventually. For us it is still a long road: everyone must stay vigilant, vet every offer carefully, but it is good to see the first signs that life is returning to normal – at least in this industry.
I also certainly hope that higher authorities (governmental bodies and manufacturers alike) have seen how the underground network of joker brokers ravaged an entire industry, and even managed to partially immobilize it with all the noise and fake information they have created. If so, this might be a good opportunity for them to regulate the trade of medical devices and PPE, like for example the pharmaceutical industry. There is definitely a need for that.