Initially, when the COVID-19 outbreak just started, people were clueless about the virus, its fatality, and the precautionary measures. This is the reason why the number of cases for infected people spiked up so much during the initial months. People didn’t maintain any protocol at all, and they can’t be blamed for that. The lack of information and, instead, misconceptions lead them to act in that way. Within a few months, all reputable healthcare organizations and governments of every country started running campaigns to make people aware of the virus and its deadliness. Then people got to learn that the virus doesn’t cause any fatal disease; it affects the lungs severely and triggers all existing conditions, which made people weak and incapable of resisting further problems. The older people and kids were at maximum risk then because the immunity system of these two age groups remains low than the others. However, it has been proved later that anyone with low immunity can be COVID-19 positive regardless of age.
Now, people are aware of the situation, the fatality of the disease. To stop the community from spreading the virus, governments of many countries declared complete lockdown for months. It was to minimize the public’s exposure, where everyone is at high risk of catching the virus. Masks, sanitizers, and PPE kits have been introduced to the public. Earlier, only a few groups of people who are exposed to dust, dirt, or body fluid were familiar with the masks like N95, but with the COVID-19 outbreak, now we all know about it. N95 masks are an extremely effective mask that blocks 95% airborne particles. It is to provide maximum protection from Coronavirus.
The safety measures are clear to people that can help them to stay away from the virus. Washing hands frequently, using sanitizers while out, wearing masks, keeping a distance from everyone in public, keeping yourself hydrated and well-boosted with immunity - everyone is trying to maintain these restrictions to keep their family and kids safe. However, for the effectiveness of N95 over all other masks, there was a huge sale of this mask. 3M, the key manufacturer of the product which is approved by the NIOSH, has failed short with products and was unable to meet the spiked demand. As a result, frontline workers and medical professional was running out of masks when they need these masks the most.
As soon as there is a shortage of N95 masks, scammers came into the market and started producing fake or unauthorized masks. Their products flooded the market, and many people without checking the authorization ended up buying those. The N95 masks with exhalation valves are banned in the United States for their ill effects on the surrounding, but many sellers are still coming up with similar products. Needless to say that the unauthorized N95 masks can create adverse consequences for both the wearer and the surrounding.
3M is the world's leading N95 mask manufacturer, and it has received complaints from various customers that people are selling falsified 3M goods and falsely claiming partnerships with the company. Another top manufacturer of N95 masks, Prestige Ameritech, has posted about a "Fraud Alert Notice" on the website saying that its brand is also being used in "mask sale scams." The company also said that it is collaborating with authorities on the matter.
NIOSH and CDC have cautioned people not to fall for the unauthorized N95 masks no matter how great it is. According to the CDC, below are the signs a respirator can be falsified:
- No markings on the respirator filter facepiece
- No labels by NIOSH
- No headband approval (TC) or FFR number;
- NIOSH spelled wrong
- Child approval statements (NIOSH does not authorize any kind of respiratory protection for kids).
- Respirator facepiece filtering requires ear loops, rather than headbands.
- Presence of decorative fabric or other ornamental additions
You should look for a mark approved by NIOSH on the packaging or directions to the consumers. Furthermore, the FFR itself is affixed with an abbreviated approval. Remember to check all necessary things and enquire if required before purchasing a mask online. Don’t allow your kids to wear any mask other than cotton washable and breathable ones no matter how authentic it seems.
What to do if you have received fake N95 masks online? You may return and ask for a refund from the seller’s platform, but that will not matter much. The company which is selling fake N95 respirators or masks should be taken action against. You can report the company to the platform and take things further as a responsible citizen. You can lodge a complaint against the company with adequate proof on the United States’ consumer forum. This is a convenient and helpful forum that helps people who are conned on by any manufacturer, product seller, or service provider. With the complaint, you may have to go to consumer court and submit all evidence of their fake product. We have already discussed the red flag signs for a fake N95 mask, and you can use those as evidence. The company will then be fined and sued by the government, and in the worse case, its trading license can be canceled as well.
While selling medical supplies in this crisis, everyone should be compassionate and driven by the helping nature. Taking advantage of the shortage of real products is extremely inhuman, and the seller should be punished for that.