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Scam alert: Shoppers duped into buying counterfeit masks

'Scams like this have skyrocketed'
IRS warns taxpayers of scams
Posted at 5:06 PM, Apr 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-20 19:07:03-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo — Counterfeit masks sold on the internet are duping shoppers across the country.

A local fireman reached out to the 41 Action News investigators to alert the public to the problem.

He said he purchased the mask after an ad popped up on Facebook.

The advertisement by WowHaul showed a picture of what the company called an N99 mask, which was promoted as filtering out 99 percent of harmful particles.

The 41 Action News investigators found another Facebook post that mimicked that of WowHaul from a company called Immunity.

The fireman and several customers said when the mask showed up it was cheaply made and not as described.

Several people commented on Immunity's Facebook page.

The fireman wrote a comment that said, "Don't get scammed by these people, I'm still trying to figure out how to report these people for selling fake PPE."

Frank Pyle, who lives in Colorado, also told the investigators he was duped by the scam. He said when his mask arrived, it was clearly different from the mask that was advertised.

Aaron Reese, spokesperson for the Better Business of Greater Kansas City, said scammers are seizing upon the pandemic.

"The amount of scams like this have skyrocketed where people are ordering from them, usually not getting anything back at all, but sometimes they get counterfeit products as well," Reese said.

As for the items being sold by WowHaul and Immunity, Reese said it's a counterfeit scam.

WowHaul's website looks legitimate. It has contact information and reviewers of people who post pictures wearing the advertised mask.

However, when the 41 Action News investigators called the phone number provided on the website, it didn't work.

As for the reviews, Reese said it’s all part of the scam.

"A lot of the time these businesses will mock a real website," Reese said. "They'll just pull images of the real website to use, sometimes stock photos, too. There's a lot of ways that you can spoof a review."

Reese said it's important to look into how long a company has been in business. The Immunity Facebook page is only a couple weeks old. WowHaul's website has been around for about a year, Reese said.

Customers also can research companies online and if they have bad reviews, they can be eliminated as an option.

"If you find absolutely nothing on the company, you should probably be skeptical," Reese said.

Johnson County, KS
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