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Don't fall for online face mask scams

Several scam victims have reported ordering masks and never receiving them
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Woman in medical protective mask against virus and infection diseases, close-up.

ST. LOUIS — As the demand for surgical masks skyrockets amidst the coronavirus pandemic, business experts are warning consumers not to fall victim to scams.

The Better Business Bureau said it has received more than two dozen recent reports of people being targeted by online surgical mask scams. In most cases, the victims ordered masks and never received them.

One person wrote to the bureau that they lost $350 to one such scam.

“Two days later, they sent an email that they shipped the items. But there was no tracking info,” the person wrote. “It’s been 10 days and no one is answering my emails. I have checked this (website) and they change their products and price every day. The pictures of the masks were totally different from what I bought.”

Scam sites often entice consumers with limited-time deals and other incentives. They may steal your personal and credit card information, which could lead to identity theft.

The Better Business Bureau offered the following tips to follow before you buy:

  • Be savvy about product claims. While wearing a face mask may seem like an easy way to stop COVID-19 from spreading, medical authorities do not recommend it for the general public. Be sure to evaluate claims of any medical product before buying. Be especially wary of products which offer a “miracle cure” for a range of ailments.
  • Only buy from reputable stores and websites. Check bbb.org to gauge other consumers’ experiences.
  • Make sure you can make contact. Before purchasing or giving any personal information, make sure the company is real. Check for a real address and customer service phone number.
  • Keep your guard up. Look out for coronavirus-related scams such as fake cures and phony prevention measures.

Monday, U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen of the Eastern District of Missouri urged the public to report suspected coronavirus scams to the National Center for Disaster Fraud by calling 1-866-720-5721 or emailing disaster@leo.gov.

“My office will continue to work with federal, state and local law enforcement to protect zealously the public from fraudsters who try to take advantage of a vulnerable time for our nation,” Jensen said. “A national crisis is in no way a safe harbor for criminal activity.”

The Better Business Bureau has more information on savvy shopping during the coronavirus pandemic at bbb.org/coronavirus.

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