(KERO) — Masks have become a wardrobe staple And if you're looking to buy them online watch for fake companies trying to sell you with steep discounts. Mallory Sofastaii has more on PPE scams as we countdown the 12 Scams of Christmas.
There was a spike in these kinds of scams in the spring when masks became more desirable now the FBI and Better Business Bureau are seeing it again as mask mandates are being implemented around the country.
Masks don't typically make holiday wishlists but this year is different. Masks and personal protective equipment are in high demand.
"As people are gearing up for the holidays to provide PPE for their guests and family gatherings and social gatherings, which should be limited but people are purchasing these items," explained Angie Barnett, president, and CEO of the BBB Serving Greater Maryland.
Scammers know this is something people want and need so they do what they can to trick you into buying from them.
"We had a business here in Maryland that actually ordered PPE online. Thought it was a legitimate retailer and lost thousands and thousands of dollars a small business couldn't afford to lose," said Barnett.
It's not just businesses and consumers sending money to the wrong people. The FBI has received reports from state governments attempting to procure ventilators or PPE and wired money to fraudulent sellers. By the time they realized it, the money had been transferred outside the reach of U.S. law enforcement and was unrecoverable.
"We always say and holidays are so important, slow down to investigate, do your research as you're looking because it's so easy to get misdirected to a fake website," added Barnett.
Some tips include: Buy from sellers you know and trust; Be sure the online store has working contact information; and evaluate claims of any medical product before buying.
A little research can you help avoid losing money.
The department of justice is going after criminals attempting to exploit the pandemic. If you are the victim of a scam involving COVID-19 you can report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud through their hotline or online complaint form.