BEAUMONT, Texas – Today, U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Cox joined fellow U.S. Attorneys in Texas—Ryan K. Patrick in the Southern District, Erin Nealy Cox in the Northern District and John F. Bash in the Western District—and Attorney General Ken Paxton to inform the public about several fraudulent schemes involving masks, personal protection equipment (PPE), and other COVID-19 related equipment. They urge 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
“Fraudsters that engage in the trafficking of counterfeit or non-existent PPE prey upon their fellow citizens at a time when they are at their most vulnerable, and, in so doing, deny front line medical professionals needed protective equipment,” said U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Cox. “One of my highest priorities is identifying these scammers, shutting down their operations, and bringing them to justice. The public deserves nothing less.”
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 should 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 our disaster scams website.
More information on unapproved or counterfeit PPE can be found at cdc.gov/niosh. You can also find information on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website and the Environmental Protection Agency website. 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.