Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, in partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Northern, Southern, Western and Eastern Districts of Texas, are informing 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, officials warn, 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 should call the Office of the Attorney General’s toll-free complaint line at (800) 621-0508 or file a complaint online at texasattorneygeneral.gov.
More information on unapproved or counterfeit PPE can be found at cdc.gov/niosh. Anyone with any information about PPE-related fraud, or about hoarding or price gouging of critical supplies, can report it without leaving 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 at www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.