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St. Louis businesses accused of jacking up prices on masks

A pain clinic, a pharmacy and a grocery store are accused of trying to sell masks for more than 20-times their value

ST. LOUIS — America's most sought after item right now might be the N95 mask. Finding them isn't easy and some businesses are taking advantage of the scarcity to jack up prices.

Luckily, state and local watchdogs in the St. Louis area are taking notice and calling out price gougers.

Investigators with the Better Business Bureau and Missouri's attorney general said they've identified three St. Louis area businesses that have raised prices on critical supplies.

"COVID-19 for scammers, this is their Super Bowl. This is something they really want to take advantage of," said Don O'Brien, investigator with the Better Business Bureau.

RELATED: BBB warns about 'fake' companies claiming to sell masks

O'Brien said of the 300-plus COVID-19-related scam complaints he's seen, almost half center around masks.

"[People] are reaching out to these mask websites, they're sending money and they're not getting anything in return," said O'Brien.

The St. Louis BBB recently investigated two medical supply companies selling masks with sophisticated websites and local addresses.

One of the businesses, Alphamential Accessories LLC, even gave the address of an actual medical supply company in Chesterfield.

"Of course I reached out to that business and they said they had nothing to do with [Alphamential Accessories LLC]," said O'Brien.

Atlantic Medical Supplies also is selling high-priced masks online. They claim to be located in St. Charles, Missouri, but investigators found the address was false.

According to web domain registry information, the BBB found each website is less than two months old.

Mask scams also have gotten the attention of Missouri's Attorney General Eric Schmidt.

"If we had to identify the most prevalent call we've gotten into the office, it's price gouging related to masks," Schmidt said.

Last week, his office sent cease and desist letters to three St. Louis business, two of which were attempting to sell N95 masks for $20 to $25 each.
Those businesses include:

  • BWell Pharmacy LLC: The office received multiple complaints that BWell Pharmacy is selling N95 face masks for $20 each.
  • Interventional Center for Pain Management, P.C. (d/b/a Padda Institute): The office received a complaint from a patient that the patient was solicited to buy a single N95 face mask for $25 after a recent appointment.
  • Olive Supermarket, Inc. d/b/a Olive Supermarket: The office received a complaint that the store was selling 50-packs of “Medical Isolation Masks” for $50. Research indicates that 50-packs of similar masks typically retail for between $5.50 and $9.74.

The BBB said a single N95 mask usually costs about $1 to $5 at stores such as Home Depot and CVS.

"We were seeing ten-times what they should cost and that's unacceptable," said Schmidt.

Schmidt's office is also working with Amazon. So far, the attorney general's office has issued eight subpoenas for Missouri-based Amazon sellers accused of price gouging.

"If you can deal with a reputable vendor, someone that you've worked with or recognizable name, that's a good thing," said Schmidt.

There's one tip 5 On Your Side hears from experts every time we do a story like this. Before you buy something from a website you're not too familiar with, check to see how long the website has been in existence. 


O'Brien recommended using Whois.

Copy the URL of the website you're considering purchasing from into the search box.

Results will show you when the domain was registered, who owns it and when it expires. It may also list contact information for the company or individual who runs the website.

More coronavirus-related scams to watch out for: 

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