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Federal Authorities Have Seized 11 Million Counterfeit N95 Face Masks

The Department of Homeland Security said it has seized more than 11 million phony masks, including one million this week in Maryland.

Video source: C-SPAN

Federal authorities have been investigating a massive counterfeit N95 mask operation in which millions of fake 3M Co (NYSE: MMM ) masks were sold to hospitals, medical facilities and government agencies in at least five states.

On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security said it has seized more than 11 million phony masks, including one million earlier that day in Maryland, as part of its investigation into the foreign-made knockoffs.

Authorities expect to seize more of the phony N95s “in the coming weeks” since the counterfeit masks have been sold to states “from coast to coast,” Alejandro Mayorkas, the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, said.

The makers of the fake masks – which the DHS traced to China – “take advantage of our fears to make a quick buck,” said Mayorkas, adding that federal officials are “working closely with 3M to identify ‘bad actors’ in scheme that started in April 2020, just after the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Over the past year, federal officials said they have also tracked an increase in phony websites claiming to sell coronavirus vaccines and fake medicine produced overseas, as well as scams involving personal protective equipment. 

DHS has seized $33 million in phony products to date and arrested more than 200 people in connection to COVID-19-related fraud.

3M has also taken steps to fight back against fraudsters, including more than a dozen lawsuits over reports of fraud and counterfeiting. Over the past year, the company has delivered two billion N95 masks.

On Wednesday, authorities said they have notified about 6,000 suspected victims of the fake N95 mask scam and advised them to check their supplies for the phony ones. Some of the telltale signs of counterfeit items include grammatical errors or typos on packaging or instructions, officials said.

“They are extremely dangerous,” Steve Francis, director of the Intellectual Property Center for DHS’s Homeland Security Investigations unit, said of the fake masks. “They are providing a false sense of security to our first-line responders and to the American consumers.”


Source: Equities News




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