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US government seizes roughly 10M phony N95 masks in COVID-19 counterfeits investigation

Virus Outbreak Counterfeit Masks
Posted at 3:26 PM, Feb 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-17 15:31:57-05

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal agents have seized roughly 10 million fake 3M brand N95 masks in recent weeks. It's the result of an ongoing investigation into counterfeits sold in at least five states to hospitals, medical facilities and government agencies.

Officials say the most recent seizures occurred Wednesday when Homeland Security agents intercepted hundreds of thousands of counterfeit 3M masks in an East Coast warehouse that were set to be distributed.

Investigators also notified about 6,000 potential victims in at least 12 states including hospitals, medical facilities and others who may have unknowingly purchased knockoffs, urging them to stop using the medical-grade masks.

The phony masks are not tested to see whether they meet strict N95 standards and could put frontline medical workers at risk if they are used while treating patients with COVID-19.

Nearly a year into the pandemic, fraud remains a major problem as scammers seek to exploit hospitals and desperate 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 earlier in the pandemic when fraudsters focused more on fleecing customers.

Officials encouraged medical workers and companies to go to 3Ms website for tips on how to spot fakes.