• By The Financial District

U.S. PROBING MASSIVE FAKE 3M N95 MASK SCAM

Federal authorities are investigating a massive counterfeit N95 mask operation in which fake 3M masks were sold in at least five states to hospitals, medical facilities and government agencies. The foreign-made knockoffs are becoming increasingly difficult to spot and could put health care workers at grave risk for the coronavirus.

These masks are giving first responders “a false sense of security,” said Steve Francis, assistant director for global trade investigations with the Homeland Security Department’s principal investigative arm.


He added, “We’ve seen a lot of fraud and other illegal activity.” Officials could not name the states or the company involved because of the active investigation. They are not saying the bogus masks came from China. At least 10 million bogus 3M N95 masks were seized by government agents, said Colleen Long reported for the Associated Press (AP).


Nearly a year into the pandemic, fraud remains a major problem as scammers seek to exploit hospitals and desperate and weary Americans.


Federal investigators say they have seen an increase in phony websites purporting to sell vaccines as well as fake medicine produced overseas and scams involving personal protective equipment.


The schemes deliver phony products, unlike fraud earlier in the pandemic that focused more on fleecing customers.


Probers said 3M, based in Maplewood, Minnesota, is among the largest global producers of the N95 mask, which has been approved by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and is considered the gold standard in protection against the coronavirus.


The company delivered some 2 billion N95 masks in 2020 as the pandemic soared, but in earlier months of the pandemic, when masks were in short supply, fraudsters started popping up. “They’re not coming from authorized distributors,” said Kevin Rhodes, 3M’s vice president and deputy general counsel. “They’re coming from companies really just coming into existence.”

“They’re not coming from authorized distributors,” said Kevin Rhodes, 3M’s vice president and deputy general counsel.


“They’re coming from companies really just coming into existence.”



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