Well-Being Medical Advances

Widespread fake N95 mask scam under investigation

coronavirus COVID-19 community spread kn95 masks counterfeit three million
KN95 masks for sale at a face mask vending machine during the coronavirus pandemic on May 29, 2020 in New York City. Government guidelines encourage wearing a mask in public with strong social distancing in effect as all 50 states in the USA have begun a gradual process to slowly reopen after weeks of stay-at-home… Cindy Ord/Getty Images

Story at a glance

  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is investigating allegations of about 3 million fake N95 masks being sold during the pandemic.
  • Dozens of lawsuits have been filed against fraudulent manufacturers of N95 masks.

The U.S. government is investigating a widespread counterfeit N95 mask operation, according to The Associated Press (AP). 

About 3 million fake N95 masks, a high-quality model of facial coverings used by medical professionals, were sold across at least five states to various hospitals, medical clinics and government agencies. 

It is reportedly difficult to differentiate a knock-off N95 mask from a real one. 

Steve Francis, the assistant director for global trade investigations with the Homeland Security Department, said that a lot of fraud has been reported over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, but he added that the fake masks give first responders “a false sense of security.”

3M, one of the companies that manufactures and sells N95 masks authorized by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, encourages customers to read its guidelines on how to identify a fake N95 model.

The vice president of 3M, Kevin Rhodes, warns that counterfeit models will not provide the same high level of protection as verified N95s.

“These products are not tested to see if they make the N95 standards,” he told reporters. “They’re not interested in testing them. They’re interested in making as many as they can as cheaply as possible.”