Washington – Federal agents seized more than 10 million counterfeit 3M-branded N95 masks in recent weeks, the result of an investigation into counterfeit items sold in at least five states to hospitals, medical facilities and government agencies.
The most recent seizures took place Wednesday when Homeland Security agents intercepted hundreds of thousands of counterfeit 3M masks at an East Coast warehouse that were ready to be distributed, officials said.
Investigators also alerted about 6,000 potential victims in at least 12 states, including hospitals, medical facilities and others, that they may have inadvertently acquired copycat items, and urged them to stop wearing the apparent medical-grade masks. Authorities encouraged medical workers and companies to consult 3M’s website for recommendations for identifying fake items.RELATED
“They don’t just give a false sense of security. How much risk is the exposed individual without any protective equipment? They are useless, ”said National Security Secretary Ali Mayorkas.
The masks do not come from regular 3M distributors, but rather from outside the normal supply chain, according to authorities. But more and more hospitals and medical groups are looking for other options for shopping during protective equipment shortages in the pandemic, officials said. They indicated that scammers are taking advantage of the panic over the lack of masks.
National Security officials refrained from specifying the names of the states to which the masks were shipped, but noted that criminal charges will be brought.
Fake masks are not tested to see if they meet the stringent N95 standards, and could put frontline medical workers at risk if they use them when caring for COVID-19 patients.
After nearly a year of the pandemic, fraud continues to be a big problem as scammers seek to take advantage of desperate Americans and hospitals. Federal investigators say they have detected an increase in fictitious websites selling fake vaccines and drugs produced overseas, as well as scams related to the sale of copycat protective equipment. Those involved deliver fake products, unlike at the beginning of the pandemic, where fraudsters focused more on fleecing customers.