Between the time the pandemic began and the end of the year, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized more than 14.6 million fake face masks that entered the United States, the agency told CNN.
Here’s how to spot a fake N95 mask.
The most important thing: NIOSH approval
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that focuses on worker safety and health.
Before filtering face masks – a fancy term that includes N95 masks – they can be used in any workplace, they must be NIOSH certified.
When you know whether or not an N95 mask is fake, NIOSH signs are your compass. But there are a few checks you can do before you have a mask in your hand.
What to consider before purchasing
If you buy directly through the website:
- Are there spelling, grammar, or other errors on the site?
- Are there flaws with the website, such as incomplete or blank pages, fake text, broken links, and misspelled domains?
If you are buying through a third-party marketplace:
- Does the listing describe the product “original” or “real”? Legitimate companies don’t need to tell buyers that their products are real – At least not in the product name.
- Are reviews left on the product or seller? Unsatisfied buyers may disclose the product as poorly made or illegal.
- Is the price too good to be true? It might be.
- Is the seller selling the same items over time, or in line with trends? Legitimate businesses tend to remain consistent.
- Does the seller put their contact information in the pictures? If so, then they might be wrapped around market policy to maintain interactions between buyers and sellers on the site.
How to check if your mask is real
Okay, but what if you actually hide a website or marketplace and don’t know if it’s the real deal?
Here’s the rule of thumb: There are no signs of disapproval.
NIOSH certified masks contain an approval label on or inside the mask packaging – either on the box or in the user’s instructions. The mask must also have a short-approval tag.
Some of the other red flags to look for include:
- Any decorative elements such as sequins.
- Ear loops instead of headbands. Headbands are essential to fit the N95 snugly.
- Claims of consent for children. NIOSH does not approve of masks for children.
Do you have a real mask? Share these resources
Do you have a fake mask? Report it
Criminal organizations are also trying to sell counterfeit medicines, other personal protective equipment and medical devices to “unsuspecting American consumers,” John Leonard, executive director of trade policies and programs at the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, told CNN.