As state and local governments, hospitals and health care organizations, and businesses have worked to acquire personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect their employees and citizens from exposure, many middleman businesses have arisen to broker deals with foreign manufacturers in order to supply the desperately-needed equipment, according to a news release from Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.
These brokers purport to offer NIOSH-approved masks, face shields and gowns in mass quantities but at inflated prices. Furthermore, many brokers cannot verify the quality of the products or the authenticity of their overseas sources, according to the release.
“Just like law enforcement officers expect and depend on their body armor for protection, individuals shouldn’t have to be concerned about the legitimacy of the PPE that they are wearing,” Rutledge said. “As with any business transaction, we should always be cognizant of deals that are too good to be true. Buyers should do their due diligence to confirm the authenticity of the products prior to purchase and should report scam and price gouging suspicions to my office.”
Rutledge provided the following tips in order to protect the public health and to avoid unintended consequences and financial losses:
• When ordering PPE from online retailers, always verify the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) and confirm “https” in the web address, as a lack of a security certification (“https”) may be an indicator that the site is insecure or compromised.
• The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Air purifying respirators approved by NIOSH are available at https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/topics/respirators/disp_part/default.html.
In particular, consult the NIOSH website to –
• determine if an offered product is on the NIOSH Certified Equipment List.
• determine if the manufacturer is on the NIOSH Approved Manufacturers List of N95 respirator masks, and validate approval and certification numbers.
• find examples of unapproved or counterfeit N95 respirator masks.
For further guidance regarding non-NIOSH-approved respirator masks that may qualify as approved, consult guidance from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) at https://www.fda.gov/media/136403/download.
• If procuring other categories of PPE such as gowns, gloves, goggles, and face shields, consult the manufacturer to verify authenticity and availability.
• Be wary of unprompted solicitations to purchase large quantities of PPE and do not provide usernames, passwords, personal identifying information (PII) such as social security number and date of birth, or financial information in response to an email or robocall.
• Ask the seller for information about the manufacturer, its location and its reputation for manufacturing high-quality goods.
• Check with the Secretary of State’s Office to determine if the broker is registered to do business in Arkansas and is in good standing.
To find out more information about COVID scams and fake websites, or file a consumer complaint, visit ArkansasAG.gov or call 800-482-8982.