4 things to look out for when buying a face mask


    On June 15 it will become compulsory to cover your face while travelling on public transport in the UK. The increased worldwide demand for face masks, and all forms of PPE, has created a lucrative market for fraudsters looking to make a quick profit. Here are 4 ways in which scammers are seeking to profit from people’s fears and how you can protect yourself.

    4 things to look out for when buying a face mask

    1. Avoid fake websites

    Fraudsters are creating fake websites of reputable brands to offer face masks. They often use scam ads, which appear in search engine results or on websites, and include false or misleading claims about masks. The aim of the fraudsters is to obtain payment and bank details from trusting customers.

    Google has acknowledged the problem and said “we’ve seen opportunistic advertisers try to run an unprecedented number of these ads on our platforms. We have a dedicated task force working to combat this issue and have removed millions of ads.”

    How to protect yourself:

    • Check the domain name of the website to see if it looks legitimate
    • Check that the payment process is secure

    2. Steer clear of fake social media accounts

    Police in the USA, Philippines and Malaysia have reported that fraudsters have used social media, such as Facebook Marketplace, to scam people looking for face masks. The model is always the same with people ordering and paying for the masks which they never receive. The seller would then disappear, and buyers were no longer able to contact them.

    How to protect yourself:

    • Look to see how long the seller has been active on social media, if they’ve only just joined, they might not be legitimate
    • Use a secure online payment service, such as Paypal, which might be able to help you get your money back

    3. Delete phishing emails

    Emails reporting to offer face masks are circulating, I know I’ve received plenty.

    The emails are written to look like genuine marketing emails from reputable companies. They are scams seeking to trick buyers into paying money for goods that don’t materialise, or to obtain your personal information

    How to protect yourself:

    • Check the email address of the sender, does it look genuine?
    • Check the English used. If there are mistakes, then the email might not be genuine

    4. Check safety markings and certification

    The UK National Crime Agency (NCA) has been warning about the sale of fake and defective masks since the start of the coronavirus crisis.

    Police in London seized more than half a million face masks, which fell apart during inspection and had fake safety markings, while in Germany police broke up a lucrative scheme selling FFP2 masks with fake safety certificates. In California 2 men were arrested after trying to sell $4 million of face masks from manufacturer 3M face masks that didn’t exist, they’d just put fake 3M labels on empty boxes!

    How to protect yourself:

    • Only purchase items from authorised sellers
    • Verify any safety certificate with an issuing body, in the UK this is the BSI

    One other way to protect yourself from scammers is to, of course, make your own mask.