Tips for Buying PPE Online
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends ignoring texts, emails, robocalls, or calls about checks from the government. At the time, there are no proven treatments for COVID-19 and it is best to avoid online offers for vaccinations and at-home test kits. Be very cautious of emails claiming to be from the CDC or WHO.
Before purchasing PPE online, make sure to follow these proactive measures identified by the FBI:
Verify the email. Keep an eye out for emails claiming to be from the CDC or WHO. Use sites like coronavirus.gov to get the latest information. Make sure to not click on links from sources you don’t know.
Verify the URL and web address. When ordering PPE from online retailers, always verify the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) and confirm “https” in the web address, as a lack of security certification (“https”) may be an indicator that the site is insecure or compromised.
Verify the list of approved manufacturers. Consult the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) NIOSH website to view a list of all NIOSH approved manufacturers of N95 respirator masks and validate approval and certification numbers.
Confirm the approval status and certification numbers. Confirm N95 respirator mask approval status and certification numbers using the NIOSH flyer, the NIOSH website, or the CDC website, which includes examples of identified counterfeit or unapproved N95 respirator masks.
Consult the manufacturer for authenticity. If procuring other categories of PPE such as gowns, gloves, goggles, and face shields, consult the manufacturer to verify authenticity and availability.
Be extra cautious. Be wary of unprompted solicitations to purchase large quantities of PPE and do not provide usernames, passwords, personal identifying information (PII) such as social security number and date of birth, or financial information in response to an email or robocall.
Coronavirus Scam Sites Already Found
Organizations across the globe are reporting new cases of scam sites for Coronavirus masks on a daily basis. Here are just a few examples of these, and we expect many more to unfold during the course of the coming days, weeks, and months.
- In New Zealand, the site of NZ Masks is one such example. According to reports, this is not a registered company. This site seems to be targeting NZ customers only, but there are more.
- In Singapore, police have made official warnings amidst a number of scams that have been set-up using various eCommerce sites that have requested people to pay upfront for these products. With 11 reported cases, numerous arrests, and more emerging daily, they are urging people to buy face masks online from unverifiable sellers and businesses.
- In Hong Kong, several people have already been arrested for an online mask selling scam, which is thought to have amounted to more than HK$1.1 million on the popular social media platform Facebook.
- Popular e-commerce platforms JD.com and Alibaba have announced that they are actively removing merchants from their platform for selling fake, poor-quality face masks.
- A Malaysian businessman has lost S$89,000 after he tried to bulk-buy 20,000 face masks online via Facebook.
- In Indonesia, the metropolitan police have made many arrests this past week for people who have been manufacturing fake medical masks, seizing more than 30,000 masks in the process.
- In China, one individual has lost 1.6 million Yuan (USD$230,000) trying to buy Coronavirus masks online; she received an empty box in the post from scammers.
- In the U.S, the Better Business Bureau have issued their own warning due to rising concerns over counterfeit face masks and other related scams.
- Popular platform Amazon announced this week they have actively blocked more than a million products that have been listed for sale for making false Coronavirus claims.
- The World Health Organization (WHO), have reported an increase in complaints following email spoofing and phishing scams. These scams are appearing to come from their organization, asking people to part with sensitive data, and in some cases, asking people to part with money for donations.
For more information regarding the specifics of scams, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has created a list of useful consumer information.
Report a Scam
If you come across a website that is illegal, you can report the business to the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker. They will then investigate the business, and you can help warn other individuals by reporting the scam.