U.S. Attorney warns COVID-19 PPE fraud

Staff Writer
Herald Democrat
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas wants people to watch out for fraud when purchasing COVID-19 protective equipment

Texas U.S. Attorneys have been made aware of COVID-19 related frauds taking place in the state. Along with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the attorneys are warning area residents about these scams.

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas Stephen J. Cox is one of many such leaders warning the public about several fraudulent schemes involving masks, personal protection equipment and other COVID-19 related equipment. A statement from Cox’s office said he urges 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 should call the Office of the Attorney General’s toll-free complaint line at (800) 621-0508 orfile 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. The information can also be found on on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website and the Environmental Protection Agency website. Those with information about PPE-related fraud, or about hoarding or price gouging of critical supplies, can report it without leaving their home to the National Center for Disaster Fraud by calling the National Hotline at 866- 20-5721 or by submitting the NCDF Web Complaint Form.