Nima Wangdi

Officials at Gidakom hospital in Thimphu issued a notification stating that a man, who claimed to be a patient at the hospital and solicited donations to buy his dietary supplements, has never been admitted in the hospital. Five months later, people are still circulating the letter on social media to caution people.

The hospital had to issue the notification on June 8 this year after all health officials at the hospital received calls from people verifying a donation drive on Facebook.

A man with the Facebook handle Thupten L Wangdi from Lhuentse claimed to be a MDR-tuberculosis patient at Gidakom hospital, and said he needed financial support to buy his dietary supplements.

Health officials from the hospital said they have not received calls about the matter since August. “We assume he is not soliciting donations anymore,” an official said.

However, people are still sharing the letter on social media. “There are many fake donation drives on social media, so people are reminding each other to be careful,” said Dema, a Thimphu resident.

In September of this year, a person with the fictitious name “Dema Yangzon” sought donations, claiming her friend’s daughter was suffering from kidney failure.

The Bhutan Kidney Foundation reported the matter to the police, and the donation drive was stopped.

The Department of Law and Order (DLO) also issued an order to the bank with which the account number for the donation was maintained.

Police officials said they are still investigating the case.

People say that social media, which is useful in many ways, has also become an easy platform for people to carry out such fraudulent practices.

A corporate employee said the public’s misplaced compassion actually helps such fraudulent practices thrive. “The moment they see anything pitiful on social media, people willingly contribute,” a corporate employee said. “This could do more harm to society than good.”

DLO officiating director Karma Dorji said people are allowed to raise funds or ask for donations only if they have secured prior permission from the department. “The department encourages people to seek prior approval to raise funds online.”

He said they have approved about four proposals. “It is also the public’s responsibility to ask if those soliciting donations have received approval.”

Edited by Tashi Dema