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How to Avoid Scams When Buying Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in fake websites selling Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) online. These fake websites are trying to sell PPE equipment in bulk quantities and some are even offering lower prices online.

This pandemic has created an urgent demand for PPE around the world. However, with an increase in demand, there is an increase in scammers trying to profit from this unfortunate pandemic. Escrow.com wants to help protect you from being scammed online.

Scam Sites Are Preying on the Opportunity

Fake websites with no history are being put online, seemingly selling bulk quantities of Coronavirus masks. Without any legitimate business history or record to speak of, they are offering low prices on orders for millions of masks.

People from around the world are trying to order millions of face masks to protect themselves against COVID-19. The demand is real. With this demand comes opportunity, and unfortunately, for some, they are already using this opportunity to extort millions of dollars.

Identifying Scam Sites

Many of these sites offer very little information about shipping, the company, or its products. They are extremely vague with their shipping information, and they allow people to order in excess of 1 million face masks at a time and extremely low prices.

Aside from the data being extremely obscure, if products are being shipped, there is virtually little to no guarantee of the quality or effectiveness of these products.

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.

How Escrow.com Can Protect You

Despite the high number of scam sites selling PPE, there are still legitimate Sellers and manufacturers online who can provide Buyers with the products they need, in high volumes.

With Escrow.com, you can get legitimate protection from the world’s most trusted escrow company. Whatever products you need to buy, you create the inspection rules, and any funds are held securely in escrow until you have had the opportunity to inspect them. It offers both the Buyer and the Seller a safe way to buy and sell products online, with complete protection on both sides against fraud.

How does Escrow Work?

Escrow.com reduces the risk of fraud by acting as a trusted third-party that collects, holds and only disburses funds when both Buyers and Sellers are satisfied.

Escrow.com’s simple five-step process:

  1. Both the Buyer and Seller agree to terms - Either the Buyer or Seller begins a transaction at Escrow.com, and all parties agree to the terms of the transaction.
  2. The Buyer pays Escrow.com - The Buyer submits a payment by approved payment method to our secure Escrow Account. After Escrow.com verifies the payment, and the Seller is notified that funds have been secured 'In Escrow'.
  3. The Seller ships the PPE to Buyer - Upon payment verification, the Seller is authorized to send the PPE and submit the tracking information online. Escrow.com verifies that the Buyer receives the PPE.
  4. The Buyer accepts the PPE - The Buyer has a set number of days to inspect the merchandise purchased and the option to accept or reject it.
  5. Escrow.com pays the Seller - Escrow.com releases funds to the Seller from the Escrow Account.

With so much fraud having already been reported, and scammers looking to con people out of money for buying essential equipment at every opportunity, the need to stay secure when buying PPE online is immense.

If the unfortunate individuals who have already fallen victim to Coronavirus related purchases would have chosen an Escrow service for their payment provision; then they would not be dealing with these significant financial losses and could have avoided entering into a fraudulent transaction altogether.

Do you have any additional questions or concerns regarding PPE? Feel free to contact our experienced customer support department through phone support, email at support@escrow.com, or chat support when they are online.

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