U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Erin Nealy Cox – in partnership with U.S. Attorneys Ryan K. Patrick (Southern District of Texas), John F. Bash (Western District of Texas), and Stephen J. Cox (Eastern District of Texas) as well as Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton – today informed the public about several fraudulent schemes involving masks, personal protection equipment (PPE), and other COVID-19 related gear. They urged everyone to exercise increased due diligence and caution when dealing with new suppliers or vendors, especially when using a third-party broker.
As demand for PPE increases, scammers may advertise equipment they do not actually have in attempts to make a quick profit. These PPE products may be counterfeit and mislabeled, and some may not exist at all. Some fraudsters reach out directly to consumers and government entities through email or social media to push their products.
Red flags that a seller may be engaging in a scam include:
- Unusual payment terms
- Last-minute price changes
- Last-minute excuses for delay in shipment
- Unexplained source of a large quantity of material
- Evidence of re-packaging or mislabeling
There are ongoing federal and state prohibitions on charging exorbitant prices for PPE during this time of national emergency.
Texans who believe they have encountered scams or price gouging can call the Office of the Attorney General’s toll-free complaint line at (800) 621-0508 or file a complaint online. For additional information on disaster scams, please visit their disaster scams website.
More information on unapproved or counterfeit PPE can be found at cdc.gov/niosh. If you have information about PPE-related fraud, or about hoarding or price gouging of critical supplies, you can report it without leaving your home to the National Center for Disaster Fraud by calling the National Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or by submitting the NCDF Web Complaint Form.