Where there's a crisis - there will be fraud.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is warning you to beware of online vendors selling PPE. Online shopping is convenient --- but scammers are selling it there, too. Steve Weisman of Scamacide says "The scammers are very adept to appeal to whatever we need and desire --- so there have been a lot of phony websites set up. It's best to check out the site first. If the company purports to be from Texas and you go to www.whois.com and enter the company name and find out it's really from Nigeria, that's a problem right there!"
Alan Spears of the Office of Emergency Management in Ft. Bend County says it's really better to just go shopping. "The main thing people need to realize is that the Personal Protection Equipment items like face masks and gloves are no longer scarce. Big box stores have lots of PPE."
The Tx Atty Gen's Office says 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 should call the Office of the Attorney General’s toll-free complaint line at (800) 621-0508.
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